This weeks guest writer and law graduate Sabina Bravo will provide us with an overview of some animal laws in Chile.
Regarding all animals
Animal legislation in Chile began as a mere regulatory framework for economic activities where animals are involved (farming industry, for example) and animal health, but as time went on, welfare and, eventually, animal protection regulations were introduced, such as Act 20.380 on animal protection, enacted in September 2009. This law establishes duties of care for those who have an animal, as well as the obligation to avoid mistreatment or serious deterioration of the animal's health and unnecessary suffering in situations of slaughter, transport, circuses, zoos, laboratories, production industries, commercial premises for the sale and purchase of animals, among others. In one of its last sections, it excludes from its effects sports activities involving animals, including rodeo. Finally, it replaces section 291 bis of the Chilean Penal Code and introduces a penalty of imprisonment (3 years maximum) and a fine (from 1 to 30 UTM, which would be equivalent to a range between £48 and £1,458) for acts of mistreatment or cruelty to animals.
Between January 2019 and June 2021 more than 4,700 reports of animal abuse were registered in Chile. Most of these complaints involve companion animals, to a medium extent farm animals and to a very small extent, animals used in recreational or sporting activities, such as rodeo or dog racing. The latter is usually not seen as cruelty in the eyes of the public, even though it could objectively qualify as such.
What about companion animals?
In 2017, Act 21.020 on Responsible Pet and Companion Animal Ownership was enacted, which extends its regulation to any species of companion animal; however, most of its provisions refer to canines and felines. It mandates identification of pets, bans any training that encourages aggression in the animal, outlines categories of animals (community animal, potentially dangerous animal, etc.). It also prohibits animal abandonment, stating that its sanction will be that contemplated in article 291 bis of the Chilean Penal Code, mentioned above.
Recently, on 1st December this year, the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill banning cosmetic testing on live animals and it was sent to the Senate for further voting. If approved there, and duly enacted by the President, it would become law.
Chile does not include animals in its Constitution, which is the highest legal standard, but is in the process of drafting a new constitutional proposal in which it is hoped, thanks to several animal rights campaigns, including #AnimalesEnLaConstitución by the Fundación Derecho y Defensa Animal, to achieve constitutional protection for non-human animals, where such protection would permeate the interpretation of lower laws.
Now and the future
There are still many discussions about the situation of animals in Chile, especially those mistreated in contexts where abuse is allowed or normalised. Year after year these activities, such as rodeo and dog racing, represented by their respective organisations, have managed to remain entrenched in society and, of course, unpunished. The bill to ban dog racing was rejected last September and in October a bill was introduced to amend the crime of animal abuse in the Penal Code to include the criminalisation of zoophilia.
In order to uproot ideologies and traditions in Chile that make animal cruelty invisible, or to correct behaviour that stems from insensitivity and ignorance, education is still necessary, one of the greatest causal factors in everything that shapes citizens' actions.