Saturday, 19 November 2011

The draft of the "dog control bill" is a shamefully backward, cruel and badly written piece of writing.

This is the letter I sent to Ministries of the country. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Agro-Industry's email was not reachable because its quota was full.

I have just read the draft called "Dog Control Bill" ( posted on the website of the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security, being a law graduate who cares deeply about animals, it shocks me that the legislators of our  country can do no better than this farcical, purported piece of legislation. It has to be amongst the worst pieces of purported law I have encountered. I would rank it amongst the same kind of laws which have promoted Apartheid in S.Africa and Nazi laws; only, this one is not about humans, but about dogs. Have those who have drafted the draft of this bill even done an inch of research into the rapidly-developing field of animal welfare law? To me, this looks like its been written in ten minutes at most, as if one was eager to quickly get over with the writing without putting an inch of thought into what was being written. I am quite simply shocked.

Dogs, man's famed best friend, are being villified as mere monsters. I am ashamed to be a citizen of a country where instead of developing animal welfare codes (the likes in place in England for farm animals), the Ministry of Agro-Industry is putting his efforts into sinking into incompetence and blatant disregard of the sentience of animals. Dogs are beings with feelings, and they are capable of feeling intense fear, sadness, joy and love. Many families in Mauritius regard their pets as members of their family; their sons, daughters, friends and companions. If you decide to go ahead with this cruelly ignorant, shameful and backward draft, I can foresee a time when animal lovers will go to court and accuse the ministry of violating their constitutional rights and freedoms, and even acting in a criminal manner. Just how can anyone come on your property and decide to "destroy" your dog? This is trespass and anyone coming in and killing a being one loves with all one's heart simply on the farcical and outrageously weak basis as those put down in draft is what I consider the deepest way of violating my rights as a citizen. My dog is like my son or daughter. Do you really think this sounds acceptable to me? Do you think I would just let anyone come onto my property and kill or seize my child? Do you think a mother would let anyone take away her child to be killed without fighting like a lioness? A child does not have to be human. A child can be an animal; a dog, a monkey; a cow; a goat; any animal which one loves as much as one loves her human father, mother, sister, or brother. It is unbelievable that those people who have written this piece have not considered the sentiments of people who love their pets.

I have done my University dissertation on Animal Rights, and I am so very ashamed of the people working in the State Law Office. Is that the level of our lawyers? Is that all thinking they can manage to do? Is that what they call research? Is that what they call quality of writing? Where is the underlying debate about the philosophy of law? This is not something blatant in a piece of legislation, but every 'good' law, every complete 'law' in the sense of a well-written legislative piece, should be based upon, and seen as promoting the cause of human beings. One of the cause of human beings from the very start of human civilisation has been their dealings with animals. Over centuries, the sentiments of compassion or generosity of soul has taken root in the human heart. Shouldn't therefore every piece of legislation which deals directly or indirectly with animals take this factor into account? Wouldn't it be only then that a nation will be able to progress both morally and economically? Where is the spirit of the law which is considered as being based on what is fair and just - ultimately that which is compassionate and important for the betterment of society? This farcical bill is bare of any of those. It doesn't do credit to the word "law" as it fails to take into account so many animal welfare matters which is a contemporary concern in the minds of jurists and legislators worldwide.You will be doing great discredit to the image of Mauritius if you go ahead with such nonsensical provisions. As a citizen with the power to vote, by electing you, I had in mind that the voice of concerned citizens will be taken into account and that the various sentiments of citizens are taken into account before even proceeding to draft any kind of bill. I have been greatly disappointed by such official evidence of the tendency to ignore the feelings and opinions of caring families who love animals. I truly hope that this will be remedied, otherwise as a human being living and partaking in a civilised society, my faith in humanity's capacity for wisdom will be greatly diminished.

Below are listed a number of not mere faults but seriously aggravating propositions I forced myself to read on because the draft of a bill has the potential of becoming a law. While I consider that this is a bill which because of it inherent mediocrity, and baseless harshness ought not even to see the light of the day, these are some of its most obvious ridiculous and cruel provisions. Respectfully, Sir, I pray you to consider these and to concentrate your efforts on putting in place animal welfare laws. Why shame the image of Mauritius with such a backward bill? Everywhere across the world, legislators are thinking about ways to prevent animal cruelty and more and more animal welfare laws are being put in place. In Mauritius, this is practically non existent, but what's more, instead of going forward and helping to establish the country as one with advanced morals and even intelligence by working hard to become leaders in various fields of the law, such kind of badly thought out bills only make animal lovers like myself doubt the very basis of the word "law". The Laws of a country are supposed to represent justice and fairness. How does this shameful bill even approach the important notions of "justice" or "fairness"? It is a 'cruel' bill with no consideration of humanity's most laudable characteristics such as compassion, intelligence and wisdom. To call such a bill representative of the Mauritian population by condoning it will be false and an outright blow to the intelligence of many Mauritians. I personally would never want to call myself proud of my country if the efforts and resources of the Ministers are being wasted in drafting such bad laws. It is great time, Sir, that the focus is put on animal welfare. We are truly lacking behind in these, and concerned citizens like myself would gladly help in research, reviews, comments, and even drafting which would help put in place the greatly needed laws on animal welfare. Animals who are voiceless, who suffer at the hands of man, who toil so hard for us, deserve so much more than the disregard and virtual hate in bills such as these.

1) The Interpretation Section of the draft of the 'Dog Control Bill'

i) The definion of a "dog breeder" is just not enough. It is unclear and vague. It should also have mentioned dog breeders being those who focus in breeding dogs with the aim to sell them for a profit. Mention should have been made about the needs of animals in the hands of dogs breeders, about the measures required to ascertain their welfare, their food, their water, the space they need for a healthy growth. Leaving the definition of "dog breeders" that short and cruelly lacking does not make sense! If a compassionate soul finds an injured, pregnant dog on the street and bring the poor animal home to take care of it, if the pregnant dog gives birth, isn't it far from being logical to label such a person as a "dog breeder'. Provisions such as these clearly shows how rushed and thoughless this piece of writing is. Please do not make the mistake of calling this bill representative of Mauritius and its citizens. I cannot understand how professional lawyers, people who have surely taken some kind of course in the drafting of legislation, can fail to see this weakness and not address it. Where is the wide and thorough thinking of these lawyers, where is their incisive research, where is the passion in their work? Moreover, how can the Ministry not see their faults?

ii) It has also been written that a domestic animal "includes any kept animal by a person for recreational purposes". While it might be that some people keep animals for recreational purposes, why is it not mentioned that some people keep animals for their own emotional well-being as well. In a world where the economic progress is being made, loneliness has been reported as one of the greatest ills affecting the civilised world. In such a society and world, it is not uncommon for a person to pitch his world around his loving, faithful animal companion. It is probably an on purpose omission, for linking an animal as important for the emotional well-being of a human will be weakening the very essence of this shameful bill, whose tone is blatantly anti-animal welfare, thoroughly against dogs, and thoroughly against all the animal lovers of the country.

iii) '"owner", in relation of any dog, means every person above the age of 18 years old who has a dog in his or her possession for more than 72 hours;" Again, this sentence seems to have been written by a barely knowleagable person. One has to wonder whether the person has ever heard of the word "foster"? A foster is a person who volunteers to take an animal from a shelter because the shelter is currently overflowing and keeps the animal for a few days with him until a caring family is found. The foster has no intention to keep the animal forever with him. He makes a compassionate decision so that the animal does not have to be euthanised. He feeds the animals and provides a temporary home for the animal until its permanent home is found. The interpretation of "owner" in this section is lacking and grossly inadequate. It does not encourage people to keep fosters and cultivate compassion. It does not encourage people to foster animals so that these innocent beings are not then condemned to death. It again fails me how someone who has a law degree and has succeeded at the bar put not only all the feelings which make him a good human being aside, but also not do justice to his or her own intelligence.

2) i) Section 3(1)(d),(e) and (f) of the bill mentions about occasions where the dog is causing "nuisance" by barking and other behaviour such a damaging property. However, what if the said dog who starts barking has been provoked by other people? What about the provocation of the dog, inciting the animal to indulge in a behaviour which is normal to him; it will try to defend itself and its owner. What about persons with malicious intentions on purpose baiting the dog to act in a certain manner in order to then call the police and then to make the owner, against whom they might have a personal grudge and want to take a personal vendetta? How a bill can fail to foresee the probabilities of such occasions arising truly fail me.

ii) Section 3(ii) does not provide what kind of fines, or sentences people, with malicious intents, who provoke a dog into engaging into behaviour listed in 3(i) can encounter. Shouldn't justice be fair in that it always provides for a two-way road? Why seem so relentless in punishing an owner and failing to provide in situations where other persons can incite dogs into barking and trying to defend what they innocently think as the best interests of their owner?

3) Section 7 and 8 could have done a much better job in using a language much more conducive into making one believe that the main intention of entering a person's premise is concern for the welfare of the animal. Moreover, provision about a reasonably thorough enquiry being made into a complaint before acting upon the seizing of a dog could also have been delved upon. Of course, if it is clear that an animal is being starved and that cruelty is being inflicted upon it, then immediate action action should be taken for the sake of the animal's welfare. In particular, section 8(3) should also have mentioned that people with malicious intent who provoked the dogs can also be condemned to paying the costs entailed. Again, no spirit of "fairness" can be partaken from this particular section.

4) Section 9 makes no mention whatsoever about abuses of power certain officers might be found practising. At the very least a line should have been dropped about potential recourse to justice against those officers who abuse of their power; mention must have been made about these officers being liable to be subject of civil proceedings relevant under the aegis of the Mauritian Civil Code.

5) It is ironic that section 10 (4) of the bill forces one to immediately think of the very important section 10 of the Mauritian Constitution entitled "Provisions to secure protection of the law". Arresting a person without a warrant, as section 10 (4) of the bill provides, is a very serious matter, and it would have added some measure of credibility if this matter has been delved upon at length.

6) i) Section 12 (1) (b) provides about the competence of the Competent Authority to classify a dog as "dangerous" and "menacing" can do so on the basis of "sworn evidence" and "reasonable grounds to believe constitutes a threat (...)". Again, absolutely no importance is attributed to the dog as being a sentient being. A Competent Authority is NOT a court of law! How can they weigh what 'sworn evidence" is or even amount to? There is always the possibility of people with malicious intentions harbouring grudges against owners coming forward and lie their way to saying how dangerous the dog is. Absolutely no mention is made of giving the owner an opportunity to clear himself and have a 'fair hearing' which is of utmost importance in a democratic society. This is a dangerous piece of law, violative of a person's right to have a 'fair hearing'.

ii) Section 12 (1) (c) is another part where no concern about the welfare of the dog is evidenced. How can what an owner say be considered as the final word of law in deciding whether a dog is 'dangerous' or 'menacing'. If a child were reported as being uncontrollable by his parents, would children welfare authories satisfy themselves only on the basis of this assertion. Wouldn't a professional psychiatrist or other qualified professional enquire about the child's mental health or how his parents has been treating him. Similarly, the word of an owner cannot be so forthrightly taken as being right. An enquiry should be done in this matter and a qualified professionals such as veterinarians be asked to 'evaluate' the dog. An owner can be using this recourse to get rid of or abandon the dog, and it would be a injustice to the voiceless animal to be a victim of the failures of his human counterparts to properly look after him. The language used in section 12 is again entirely anti-animal welfare.

7) Section 13 (1) (d) and section 13 (3) (b) mention the expression "dispose of the dog" without explaining what is meant by such a term. Does 'dispose' mean drowning, shooting, killing by beating, decapitating, hanging? These methods are of course violative of the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals Act of 1957, but it can be the case that someone find a way of killing an animal not englobed by the said act.

8) (i) From section 15 onwards come the sections which are not only dreadfully cruel, but the language used is so shamefully inadequate in all its cruelty, it makes one wonder whether those who have drafted this piece truly believe animals to be machines without feelings. The expression "destroy a dog" (15 (1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16 (2) (b), 17, 17 (c), 18 (1)) has been repeatedly used and show no awareness whatsoever of how serious the word "destroy" means and the thousands and thousands of implications it may have! Does destroy a dog mean that because a person is angry it could have been bitten or that someone else has been bitten decide to destroy the dog by torturing it in the most despicable of ways? Just what is meant by 'destroy a dog'; how can such a term be used in a civilised society for a sentient animal? I cannot understand how such a word could have been used by people who draft laws which have such far-reaching and oftentimes unforeseen consequences by using a despicable word such as "destroy". If a situation warrants it, the expression "humanely euthanise" could have been used instead. 'Destruction of a dog' is a heartless expression, which goes against all precepts of animal welfare. Please see to it that a more humane expression is used. Stop using the easy way out and writing thoughless laws such as this one. It truly hurts the image of a country. Isn't, as Mahatma Gandhi says, the greatness of a nation and its moral progress judged by the way it treats its animals? I do not want Mauritius -- the country I was born in and love so deeply, to have laws which are lacking in depth, unresearched, devoid of humanity, devoid of the consideration that animals have a great capacity for suffering-- to have laws in place which seem so uncaring about the welfare of animals. Why are time and effort not put into bringing forth welfare codes for farm animals? Why isn't the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals Act of 1957 be broadened in scope to englobe much more about animal cruelty, stricter fines and sentences? Why aren't laws entitled 'Animal Welfare' which delve into various ways the conditions of animals can be improved in Mauritius? I would glady support such efforts, but not bills such as the 'Dog Control Bill' which insults the intelligence and emotions of many Mauritian citizens.

(ii) In section 18 (1), it is mentioned that dog will be destroyed (using the inappropriate language of the bill), without even mentioning that an effort will be made to find the owner, nor that the owner will be notified. The owner might have had a mitigating circumstance to put forward in his defence. Is that 'fair' or even 'just'? Isn't this contrary to the spirit which went into writing the Supreme law of the land, our Constitution? While one can understand that seizing the dog is important if it is an active threat to wildlife, why should the animal be readily destroyed as the bill provides? Why is there no option left open? Why can't it be returned to its owner with a proper warning or even a fine. Shelters in this country are not nonexistent and the dog can even be sent there. Why insist on its destruction? Again, this is very much anti-animal welfare and does not follow international trends where protection given to animals are being vigorously put in place and reinforced. Mauritius should endeavour to follow this trend.

9) Section 20 (2) is a typical example of injuring and then rubbing the injury with salt. In crude words, it would mean "give me the dog you love. I will kill it, but you have to pay for the expenses"; does this make the least of sense? Isn't it cruel to kill a loved animal, which for the world has been judged as guilty for some reason, but whose owner still loves it dearly, to ask for that devastated person to finance the killing of four-legged companion? How humane is it? In what state of mind does that put the potentially grieving owner?

10) Section 21 again shows the typical anti-animal welfare approach of the bill.

11) Section 23 of the bill takes the icing in the cake of cruelty. How can a person be absolved from responsibility when, in clearer terms, he is torturing the animal before killing it. This is a wholly unreasonable section which warrants zero credibility. How can the duty of doing one's job in the best possible manner not be respected when dealing with an animal? Could such a section have been envisaged when it comes to human beings? The answer is of course a resounding no! Why, then, should animal be treated with such contempt and disregard to their suffering? Please remedy this section quickly. It makes one believe a being devoid of an ounce of wisdom, intelligence, fairness and compassion to have drafted it!

12) Section 27 (1) (g) makes mention about the minister being able to make regulations about dogs being "tied up" or "confined". These terms have not been defined. Mention should have been made about taking into account the animal's well-being when it is subjected to such a state. Clearly, as with the rest of the bill, little to no pro-animal welfare stance has been used. International animal welfare organisations must be consulted on subjects such as these because they have much more experience and expertise in this matter. They would be able to shed more light on how to draft bill by taking into consideration, first and foremost, the welfare of an animal.

These are the more obvious faults with this bill. I truly hope you will take these in consideration and recognise how thoroughly inhumane and anti-animal welfare many sections of this bill prove to be. We must, as a country, develop the field of animal welfare law and not add to the list of 'bad' laws which we would be ashamed to reproduce in front of an international audience. Legislators of this country must not blind themselves to international trends where animal welfare is becoming a very serious issue. It seems to me that the bill is trying to be in line with the misguided policy used in trying to reduce the population of strays. The only long-term and proven solution to do this is by first promoting compassion. Letting a stray wander in the street is cruel for the animal itself, because it has to starve and look for meagre scraps and not because the animal is, using a term inherently shameful to be applied to a living thing, but so common in everyday thoughless banter, 'a nuisance'. Mass sterilisation campaigns, humane dog population control programme which focus on the well-being, rehoming of animals, education of children from their tender age about the importance of animal welfare, is how as a country we will truly make progress.

This dog control bill, by all its blatantly lacking and anti-animal welfare stance, must never be made into a legislation. It is noble feelings such as compassion which elevates the soul; let us, as citizens, legislators, human beings practise it to the best of our abilities. Let us protect our animals instead of villying them and turning them into monsters by having recourse to such thoroughly inadequate bills.

I am hoping to appeal to your wisdom and that sense of rightness residing deep inside the human heart when dealing with matters such as these, and all other matters of life. A piece of legislation is an important piece of writing which reveals so much about the way the citizens of a country think. This bill is not representative of how many animal lovers think. Let us concentrate our minds on how to improve our fellow animals' lives, instead of turning their existence into nightmares. Life is very short, and we live only once. However, legislation present in our lifetime attests to what we have condoned or not. Do not let a bill such as this one represent us. I am appealing to what is good in you. Let us put our forces together and improve the lots of our non-human companions whose worth cannot be put in terms of money. They are as important as human beings, and without them, we are nothing.

Reinterating my sincere hopes that you will take this appeal from the heart into consideration,

Rajshree Boyragee

Note: God knows if this email will be taken into consideration. I hope more people will voice out on this. Here are relevant emails you can use to address your concerns about such an appalling bill to the authorities: 

Ministry of Agro Industry & Food Security
Levels 8 & 9
Renganaden Seeneevassen Building
Cnr Jules Koenig & Maillard Streets
Port Louis
Tel: (+230) 212 0854, (+230) 212 2940
Fax: (+230) 212 4427

Dr The Hon Navinchandra Ramgoolam, GCSK, FRCP
Prime Minister's Office
New Treasury BuildingIntendance StreetPort Louis
Tel: 201 1331-33
Fax: 211 7099

ii) The Hon Charles Gaetan Xavier Luc Duval, GSCK
Minister of Finance and Economic Development
New Government House,
Port Louis
Tel: 201 2507/201 1146
Fax: 211 0096

iii) The Hon John Michael Tzoun Sao Yeung Sik Yuen
Ministry of Tourism and Leisure
Level 12, Air Mauritius Centre,
Port Louis
Tel: 211 7930
Fax: 208 6776

iv) The Hon. Lormus Bundhoo
Minister of Health and Quality of Life
Emmanuel Anquetil Building
Port Louis
Tel: +230 201 2175
Fax: +230 208 7222

iv) The Hon Mr. Yatindra Nath Varma
The Attorney General's Office
Level 2, 3, 4,5 and 6
Renganaden Seeneevassen Building
Port Louis
Tel: +230 203 4740
Fax: +230 211 3819/ 213 0250

Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development
Ken Lee Tower, Cnr Barracks & St Georges Streets,
Tel: +(230) 203 6200 - 6210 + (230) 210 5151
      +(230) 210 5252 (Hotline)
Fax: +(230) 211 9524; +(230) 212 8324

The Minister of Education and Human Resources
Phone No. : +(230) 697 7862/+(230) 686 2403/+(230) 686 2402
Fax No.: +(230) 698 3601

Agricultural Services
Veterinary Services Division
Contact Person: Dr D MEENOWA
Position: Ag. Principal Veterinary Officer(Veterinary Services)
Tel: (230) 454 1016, 454 1017, 466 6662
Fax: (230) 464-2210

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