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【社評雙語道】修例護動物福利 需執法資源配合

2019-04-29
■港府正研究增加虐待動物的罰則。 資料圖片■港府正研究增加虐待動物的罰則。 資料圖片

【原文】政府建議修例加重虐待動物的罰則,最高刑罰由監禁3年改為10年,又建議引入「謹慎責任制」。對待動物的態度是社會文明的其中一個重要標尺,加強保護動物、提升動物福利,更是全球潮流。本港保護動物的法例早已過時,社會呼籲完善相關法例多時,當局的建議值得肯定和支持。期待政府部門做好解釋諮詢工作,盡快完成立法,並在執法層面增加資源和善用技術手段,進一步優化社會的動物保護環境。

由2016年至去年頭三季,漁護署平均每年收到約300宗懷疑虐待動物個案,成功檢控47宗,最重刑期為監禁16個月。香港時有傳出駭人聽聞的虐待動物案,近年較為轟動的,是去年3月底警方從維港海面救回一隻墮海銀狐犬,並歸還予主人,怎料4天後就發現狗隻被主人由天台掟落街斃命。裁判官最終量刑起點僅為不少於6個月監禁,最終判處被告4個月醫院令。動保團體和社會輿論批評本港法例阻嚇力不足,犯罪成本過低。

根據《防止殘酷對待動物條例》,現時最高刑罰是罰款20萬元監禁3年,當局的修例建議加重至監禁10年。同時引入「謹慎責任制」,要求主人須為動物提供合適飲食及生活環境等。這是與時並進的一步。

歐美等地對保護動物的理念,早已不限於防止「虐待」,而是提升到講求維護動物權益及福利的層次,重點就在於向負責照顧動物的人引入「謹慎責任」,規避預料會發生的傷害行為,如果動物照顧者沒能確保其飼養動物的福利,即可被檢控。這是人類對待動物的態度和理念上的重大進步。

本港《防止殘酷對待動物條例》設立於1935年,以英國1911年的動物保護法例為藍本改寫而成,距今近一個世紀。相較英國早在十多年前以《動物福利法》(Animal Welfare Act 2006)取而代之,香港除了在2006年提高罰款外,一直未有進行重大修正。現時世界上已有多達100個國家和地區訂立了《動物保護法》,而且罰則越來越重。德國的法例規定,主人棄養動物,最低罰款是2.5萬歐元(約23萬港元),虐待動物罰款更會倍數升級,最高可判監3年。

誠然,立法之後,如何執法是一大問題。在資源投入方面,儘管本港警方已於全港22個警區的刑事調查隊設有處理虐待動物的專隊,但還應增撥資源予動物福利組織,為社區動物及被虐待的動物提供照顧與領養服務。在執法技術上,可以參考德國為動物植入晶片,一旦動物遭遺棄,就可以通過晶片追查主人的身份和責任。

事實上,大部分虐待動物事件的根源,是一些人視動物為取悅自己的玩具,因心血來潮而飼養,但很快就失去耐心棄之不顧。政府多年前已展開宣傳,呼籲市民在養寵物前應「停一停,諗一諗」,背後的理念,正是強調主人對寵物終身照顧的責任。現在修法加重罰則並引入「謹慎責任」的概念,無疑是正確和必要的。

(摘錄自香港《文匯報》社評27-4-2019)

Resources and enforcement crucial to new animal protection laws

【譯文】Under the government's new proposal to strengthen punishment for animal cruelty, the maximum penalty could go up from three years of imprisonment to 10 years. Pet owners will also have a "duty of care" under the new amendments. While animal treatment has always been one of the main criteria of a civilised society, strengthened animal protection and welfare have also become a trend around the globe.

As animal protection laws in Hong Kong have become outdated, and that the society has called for an improvement on the matter for a long time, the authority's proposal is indeed worthy of recognition and support. It is hoped that the authorities would make candid explanations to the public during the consultation period, and complete the legislation procedure as soon as possible. It is also expected that the government would allocate more resources and make the most of technologies when enforcing the new laws, so as to better protect animals in Hong Kong.

Between 2016 and the first three quarters of 2018, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has received on average around 300 suspected animal cruelty reports. There were 47 successful convictions, and the heaviest sentence handed down by the court was 16 months of imprisonment.

Appalling stories of animal cruelty make the headlines in Hong Kong from time to time. The most abhorrent case in recent years would be that in March 2018, a Japanese spitz was thrown off a roof just four days after being rescued by marine police from the Victoria Harbour. The starting point for sentencing was merely a minimum of six months' imprisonment according to the court magistrate who headed the case, and the owner of the dog was given only a four-month hospital order.

Aggrieved by the lenient sentence, the general public and animal welfare groups criticised local laws for failing to achieve a deterrent effect, and that the cost of an offense is way too low.

The current Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance includes a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment or a fine of HK$200,000.

According to the government's latest proposal, the years of imprisonment could go up to 10. In addition, pet owners will also have a "duty of care", of which animals must be given clean water and a balanced diet, as well as a safe and clean environment. This is an important step which would bring the laws of Hong Kong up-to-date. In the western world, the concept of animal protection has long transcended from the prevention of animal cruelty to the actual welfare of animals. The essence of this transcendence is the duty of care owed to pets. Animal cruelty could be avoided when owners would already face prosecution if they fail to keep their pets in good shape and health. This is a giant leap forward in terms of animal treatment.

First introduced in 1935, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance is based on the Protection of Animals Act 1911 of the United Kingdom. In Britain, the century-old ordinance has been superseded by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 for over a decade now. By contrast, there has been no major amendment to the clearly outdated animal protection laws in Hong Kong, apart from a raised fine in 2006. Currently, more than 100 countries around the world have introduced animal protection laws, and the severity of punishments is ever increasing. In Germany, owners who abandon their pets have to face at least a 25,000(approximately HK$230,000)fine. Those who are convicted of animal cruelty offense would be handed a much larger fine, and be imprisoned for up to three years.

When the proposed amendments come into effect, the big question would be how to enforce the new laws. In terms of resource allocation, although the police have already assigned designated teams to investigate animal cruelty cases in all 22 Police districts with crime investigation units, more resources should be given to animal welfare groups so that abused animals and stray animals can receive care and be adopted. Also, the authorities can draw experience from Germany and introduce microchip technologies, so that owners could be found and held responsible when pets are abandoned.

In fact, the root cause of most animal cruelty cases is that some people treat animals as their own toys. These people buy pets only on impulse, and will neglect their animals as patience quickly wear off. The government has long promoted the idea of "stop and think before bringing a pet home". The rationale behind is to emphasise the owner's responsibility of lifelong care of the pet. Undoubtedly, by strengthening punishment and recognising pet owners' duty to care, the government is making the right and necessary move.■Jeffrey Tse (ywc_jeffrey@hotmail.com)

Exercise

1. 漁農自然護理署

2. 愛護動物協會

3. 人道毀滅

4. 行兇者

5. 狗隻繁殖場

Answer

1. Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)

2. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

3. euthanasia

4. perpetrator

5. puppy mill

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