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Paws and Laws – Navigating the Landscape of Animal Protection Legislation in Trinidad and Tobago

Martin George & Company > DAILY LEGAL LESSONS  > Paws and Laws – Navigating the Landscape of Animal Protection Legislation in Trinidad and Tobago

Paws and Laws – Navigating the Landscape of Animal Protection Legislation in Trinidad and Tobago

Nikeiya Henville

Attorney-at-Law

Martin Anthony George & Co.

Josiah Cyrus

Attorney-at-Law

Martin Anthony George & Co.

By: Nikeiya Henville & Josiah Cyrus

In the intricate tapestry of legal frameworks, the preservation of animal welfare emerges as a critical focal point, reflecting a society’s commitment to compassion and ethical responsibility in the treatment of those who are not able to speak up for, or defend themselves. This article embarks on an exploration of the laws safeguarding animals within Trinidad and Tobago, shedding light on relative local and international statutes, regulations, and evolving judicial landscapes dedicated to securing the rights and well-being of the nation’s diverse fauna. As we review prevailing the animal protection legislation, we unveil the legal mechanisms which govern responsible ownership, prevent cruelty, and ensure the harmonious coexistence between humans and the members of the animal kingdom.

Animal cruelty has been a consistent theme across the globe, and we have seen various instances of individuals inflicting violence towards animals, on videos and across social media worldwide, for their personal sadistic entertainment or as a consequence of their grossly negligent conduct. These troubling videos are not alien to us in Trinidad and Tobago, as there have been numerous instances of published animal cruelty.  Most popularly, in April 2020, a video circulated on social media, showing three individuals inT&T hanging a dog from a tree and taking satisfaction in the fact that they caused its death by strangulation. Criminal charges were laid in this instance however this event led to a nationwide outcry regarding animal cruelty and most notably the absolutely trivial punishments facing perpetrators of such heinous acts[1].

This outcry influenced Parliament’s implementation of the following provisions within the legislation:

Miscellaneous Amendments Act 2020, Summary Offences Act Ch. 11:02

Parliament, by virtue of the Miscellaneous Amendments Act 2020 passed in May 2020, amended the Summary Offences Act Ch. 11:02, in response to the upsurge in animal cruelty.

Prior to the Miscellaneous Amendments Act 2020, the only applicable statute to prosecute offences related to animal cruelty was the Summary Offences Act Ch. 11:02, section 79, which stipulated that:

“79. (1) Any person who cruelly beats, ill-treats, starves, overdrives, overrides, overloads, abuses, tortures, or otherwise maltreats any animal is liable to a fine of four hundred dollars or to imprisonment for two months.

One can imagine the inconsequential effect and lack of deterrability of the imposition of a trivial four-hundred-dollar ($400) penalty if a person is found liable for cruelty towards an animal. It is as a result of this outrage that Parliament passed the Miscellaneous Amendments Act, 2020 with particular amendments to sections 79(1), 80 and 83(1), which introduced significantly steeper penalties.

The Miscellaneous Amendments Act 2020 at Section 7 now states as follows:

“The Summary Offences Act is amended:

(a), by deleting the words in 79(1), 80 and 83(1) “four hundred dollars or to imprisonment for two months” and substituting the words “one hundred thousand dollars and to imprisonment for a term of one year”.

In addition to the abovementioned legislation, Parliament amended The Animals (Diseases and Importation) Act, Ch 67:02 which introduced Part IIIA and dealt with the issue of animal welfare, superseding the Summary Offences Act[2], and including notably greater sanctions.

The Animal (Diseases and Importation) (Amendment) Act, 2020

The Animal (Diseases, Importation, Health and Welfare) Act of 1954 is a very important piece of legislation governing issues related to wildlife trade, welfare, and biosecurity. This law was substantially revised and expanded in scope with a supporting act that entered into force in 2021.[3] The Act amends 19 sections of the previous 65-year-old Act, and introduces nine new sections including specific provisions dealing with Animal Welfare Standards.

Animal Welfare Provisions:

Section 18 of the Animal Act 2020 states:

“18A. (1) Any person who cruelly beats, ill-treats, starves, over-drives, overrides, overloads, abuses, tortures, neglects or otherwise maltreats any animal commits an offence.

18I. (1) An owner or person in charge of an animal shall provide such animal with—

  1.  a sufficient and suitable diet;
  2.  access to sufficient and clean water;
  3.  proper shelter and housing which are—

(i) appropriate for the animal’s behavioural patterns; and

(ii) reasonably sufficient to protect the animal from unsuitable weather condition, including the risk of death or injury from flooding and or other natural disasters;

  •  veterinary care when needed to treat and prevent suffering and disease;
  •  suitable accommodation during transportation; and
  •  humane care and treatment.

(2) No owner or person in charge of an animal shall cause or permit another person to cause the unnecessary suffering or death of an animal.

(3) An owner or person in charge of an animal shall take reasonable steps to mitigate any suffering which may be caused to the animal by its exposure to fireworks.”

The Amendments therefore mandate that pet owners take a more active approach, and take more reasonable steps to protect their animals. Owners now have a duty of care to ensure that the animals access proper veterinary care, and are living within suitable environments, with access to a clean water supply, and proper shelter. Pet owners are therefore forced to go beyond merely keeping animals as pets but to actively take steps regarding their welfare. Most notably, is the provision in the Act which states that owners must take reasonable steps to protect their animals from the suffering caused by exposure to fireworks[4].

In addition to the amendments to the legislation which deal with the welfare of the animals, the amendments also include more substantial penalties to ensure animals remain sufficiently protected.

Penalties:

The Animal Act sets fines of up to $200,000.00 for animal abuse and cruelty and a range of offences related to the proper care and treatment of domestic animals:

“21. (1) Any person who—

(a) fails to comply with any order, direction or permit lawfully made or granted under this Act;

commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of fifty thousand dollars and to imprisonment for a term of two years.

(3) Any person who—

(e)Tortures, beats, injures, mutilates, neglects or treats with cruelty any animal or overloads any animal in contravention of section 18A;

(f) contravenes sections 18B, 18D or 18I

commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of two hundred thousand dollars and imprisonment for a term of five years.”

Whilst one may argue that amendments to the above legislation provide sufficient safe-guards for the protection of animals across Trinidad and Tobago, upon a comparative analysis of the legislation in Trinidad and Tobago as compared to the animal protection legislation in the United States of America (USA), more legislation may be necessary to ensure the greater safety and better protection of animals in Trinidad and Tobago.

Animal Protection Laws in the USA: –

Every state in the USA has animal protection laws which are primarily concerned with companion animals namely; dogs, cats, and on occasions inclusive of birds, horses and other animals. In these states there are a felony animal cruelty laws which also extends to marine animal cruelty[5].

Additionally, the United States passed the ‘Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act’ (PACT) in 2019, which addressed the malicious animal cruelty and animal abuse[6].

The PACT Act creates an offence for individuals engaging in “animal crushing”, which is defined in section 48 as:

 “(f) actual conduct in which 1 or more [animals] is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury…”.

Section 48 also criminalized the act of creating animal crushing videos, stating that it is unlawful for individuals to knowingly create an animal crush video.

“(2) Creation of animal crush videos. –

It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly create an animal crush video, if—

  • the person intends or has reason to know that the animal crush video will be distributed in, or using a means or facility of, interstate or foreign commerce; or

(B) the animal crush video is distributed in, or using a means or facility of, interstate or foreign commerce.

(3) Distribution of animal crush videos—

It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly sell, market, advertise, exchange, or distribute an animal crush video in, or using a means or facility of, interstate or foreign commerce.[7]

In addition to laws regarding animal cruelty, each state has laws which govern ‘hands on care’ of animals.

Animal Welfare Act United States Department of Agriculture (US AWA)

Regulations established under the US AWA set standards for the humane care and treatment for certain animals that are exhibited to the public, sold for use as pets, used in research, or transported commercially. Facilities using regulated animals for regulated purposes must provide their animals with adequate housing, sanitation, nutrition, water and veterinary care, and they must protect their animals from extreme weather and temperatures[8].

More interestingly are the “hot car laws” which criminalize leaving an animal in a vehicle in dangerous or extreme weather, and allow other individuals to rescue these animals.

The provision states as follows[9]:

“597.7.(a) A person shall not leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.

(b) (1) This section does not prevent a person from taking reasonable steps that are necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle if the person holds a reasonable belief that the animal’s safety is in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”

The legislation also includes the duration in which individuals can leave their pets chained outside, and tied up in certain weather conditions[10].

In addition to the legislative provisions stated above, the USA has numerous laws for the protections of animals within the USA. The USA has recognized the seriousness of the crime of animal abuse and animal cruelty and it has been advocated and recognized amongst law enforcement that animal cruelty is a precursor or gateway to other violent crimes[11].

Animal Protection Laws in the United Kingdom (UK)

In the United Kingdom, the welfare of animals is primarily safeguarded by the Animal Welfare Act 2006[12]. This comprehensive legislation outlines the responsibilities of pet owners and imposes a duty of care towards animals. Key provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 include:

Five Freedoms:

The Act enshrines the “Five Freedoms,” which include freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury, or disease, freedom to express normal behaviour, and freedom from fear and distress.

Duty of Care[13]:

Pet owners are legally obligated to provide for their animals’ welfare, ensuring they have appropriate living conditions, diet, and veterinary care. The duty of care extends to preventing any unnecessary suffering.

Prohibition on Cruelty[14]:

The Act prohibits causing unnecessary suffering to animals. Acts of cruelty, abuse, or neglect are offenses under this legislation.

Tail Docking and Ear Cropping[15]:

The Act regulates the docking of dogs’ tails and cropping of dogs’ ears, allowing these procedures only under certain conditions and performed by a veterinarian. This applies primarily to Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers.

Inspections and Seizure[16]:

The Act empowers authorities to inspect premises where animals are kept and, if necessary, seize animals if their welfare is at risk.

Licensing[17]:

Licensing requirements are in place for certain activities involving animals, such as operating pet shops, breeding establishments, and keeping dangerous wild animals.

CONCLUSION

Although the Parliament in T&T has updated our laws and has established legislative provisions which deal with animal cruelty and abuse, the implementation of further legislative provisions facilitating increased animal protections and animal welfare is necessary in addressing and mitigating the heinous acts of cruelty committed against animals committed by individuals in Trinidad and Tobago. Public education and sensitization programmes are also an important part of such Animal Rights and Protection campaigns.

The importance of enforcing these laws lies in the tangible impact it has on the lives of animals, fostering responsible ownership, preventing cruelty, and providing a legal framework for the authorities to intervene when necessary. A robust enforcement mechanism not only serves as a deterrent against abuse and neglect but also promotes a culture of accountability, encouraging individuals and entities to uphold the highest standards of care for our fellow beings. Ultimately, the enforcement of animal welfare laws contributes to creating a society where the welfare of animals is not just a legal obligation but a shared ethical responsibility and it helps to promote a more caring and sensitive and just society.

Legislation is only effective once it is enforced. As such, it is not sufficient for increased legislative provisions regarding animal cruelty and welfare, unless sufficient safe-guards are put in place to ensure enforceability, regulation, monitoring and control in relation to our Paws & Laws.


[1] Animal cruelty legislation needs altering | Letters to Editor | trinidadexpress.com

[2] Ibid

[3] Wildlife Laws in Trinidad and Tobago — Nurture Nature Campaign (nurturenaturett.org)

[4] Animal welfare legislation now in effect | Loop Trinidad & Tobago (loopnews.com)

[5] Laws that Protect Animals – Animal Legal Defense Fund (aldf.org)

[6] Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act (awionline.org)

[7] Text – H.R.724 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): PACT Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

[8] USDA APHIS | Animal Welfare Act

[9] Law section (ca.gov)

[10] Ibid

[11] Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act (awionline.org)

[12] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/45/contents

[13] Section 9 of the UK AWA 2006

[14] Section 4 of the UK AWA 2006

[15] Sections 5-6 of the UK AWA 2006

[16] Sections 18-24 of the UK AWA 2006

[17] Sections 13-15 of the UK AWA 2006

© 2024 MARTIN ANTHONY GEORGE & CO

Paws and Laws – Navigating the Landscape of Animal Protection Legislation in Trinidad and Tobago

2 Comments

  • Teriq Smith
    Reply January 10, 2024 at 10:03 pm

    Very informative and well-written. Thank you for shedding light on this topic.

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