With a recent spike in reports specifically pertaining to animal dumping and animal cruelty, it is only pertinent to revisit the relevant laws in Malaysia relating to animal welfare. To date, Malaysia has two acts that govern the welfare of animals, namely the Animals Act 1953 (Act 647) and the Animal Welfare Act 2015 (Act 772). This article aims to explore the history behind these legislations as well as provide a brief overview on some key areas governed under the Acts.
The basic rights of animals in Malaysia are governed under the Animals Act 1953 (“1953 Act”), which is not limited to just pets, but also extends to stray animals. Any police officer, Department of Veterinary Services, Town Council or Municipal Officers may arrest you immediately if they catch you committing an offence under this act. Such arrest is governed under section 45(1) which allows for an arrest without warrant, for offences which fall under Section 44 of the 1953 act.
Although the 1953 Act does lay the foundations for animal rights in Malaysia, the punishments for acts of cruelty under this act are generally meagre. The 2013 amendment of the 1953 act – the Animal (Amendment) Act 2013 – increased the value of the punishments meted out under the act.
This has then led to the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2015 (“2015 Act”), which has been enforced as of July 1st 2017. This act provides a more comprehensive protection regime for animal rights and aims to prevent all harm, suffering, or pain towards all animals. It is pertinent to note that this act, by no means, replaces the Animal Act 1953, but rather extends its scope in several areas.
C. Key Takeaways
Under the 1953 Act, the governing powers are only limited to the relevant officers for the relevant offences that are expressly covered under the act. Although seemingly limiting at first glance, the 2015 Act has made significant strides in the governance of such crimes. This is through the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board. The functions of this board include, but are not limited to, monitoring the work of protecting animals, monitoring the work of associations that aim to protect animal rights, promoting awareness on animal welfare and advising the relevant Ministers on matters regarding animal welfare.
Search and Seizure of Premises
Under Section 56 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and the 1953 Act, relevant officers cannot enter a private premise without a warrant for investigation purposes. However, the Criminal Procedure Code does provide an exception for this – which is of there is any chance that evidence may be tampered with, altered, removed, damage or destroyed in the time it takes to issue a warrant.
Contrastingly, under Section 40 of the 2015 Act, the animal welfare officers may conduct a search and seize one’s premise without a warrant. This is for the express purpose of gathering evidence. It is also crucial to note, that the animal welfare officer needs to make his authority known before entering into the premises, as is stated under Section 38(2) of the 2015 Act. This is a crucial change as it allows for animal abuse to be stopped immediately and the relevant evidence can be gathered to prosecute the abusers.
Under the 2015 Act, there has been a specific introduction of law to govern and regulate animal testing. The Act provides that all animal testing must be conducted with a license or by a school or university only and the animals must be well taken care off. Albeit there are situations where pain and suffering towards the animal cannot be avoided, it must be significantly minimised or those who are conducting the tests will face the consequences. This is governed under Section 26 of the 2015 Act, which reads as follows:
(1) No person shall use animals in research, testing or teaching unless—
(a) all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that the physical, health, and behavioural needs of those animals are in accordance with this Act and the subsidiary legislation as may be prescribed by the Minister;
(b) the animals shall receive, where practicable, treatment that alleviates any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress when the animals are ill or injured; or
(c) any degree of pain or distress is reduced to the minimum possible in the circumstances where the nature of the research, testing, or teaching cannot comply with paragraph (a) or (b).
(2) No person, except school, shall use animals for research, testing or teaching unless the person is licensed by the Board.
(3) The guidelines on the research, testing or teaching of animals in school shall be in accordance with any guidelines issued by the Board.
(4) No person shall breed any animal to be used for research, testing or teaching unless it is approved by the Board.
(5) For the purpose of this section, “school” has the meaning assigned to it in the Education Act 1996 [Act 550].
(6) Any person who contravenes any provision under this section commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine of not less than twenty thousand ringgit and not more than one hundred thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not more than three years or to both.
The 1953 Act has certain provisions in place to regulate the conduct of pet owners, especially for dog owners. The 2015 Act has widened this scope to ensure that all pet owners have a mandatory requirement to take care of their animal’s needs. Any offence under the 2015 Act can lead to severe consequences for the pet owners. This is governed under Section 24 of the 2015 Act which states that those that commit the offence will “be liable to a fine of not less than fifteen thousand ringgit and not more than seventy-five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not more than two years or to both“.
With these adequate legislations in place to protect animal rights, it is high time for us to spread awareness about these laws and the need to report the abuse of any animal. In the event anyone witnesses such animal cruelty, the easiest way to report this is by dialling 999 and lodging a complaint which includes all relevant details such as the location, the name of the abuser (if known), the license plate number of the car (in the event of animal dumping), etc. Complaints can also be lodged with the Department of Veterinary Services or with organisations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Under the 1953 Act, any informer of such cruelty may be incentivised under Section 50 which states that “The Court by which any fine is imposed under this Part of this Act may award any portion not being more than half to the informer.” The bottom line is the onus is on each and every one of us to report animal cruelty, and together we can end this vicious cycle.
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