mid-day editorial: Animal abuse is no petty crime

From acid attacks on a monkey to the mass poisoning of stray dogs, the last few weeks have seen a spurt in the number of crimes being reported against animals. Such events have come to light in the past as well, but not with such alarming regularity.

And despite technology and social media playing a big role in helping animal lovers and activists track and lead the police to the sick offenders, nothing seems to happen after that.

As this newspaper reported on Sunday, one of the activists has filed over 90 cases of animal cruelty in the last three years, but not one has resulted in a conviction. The reasons for this are several, most significant being the fine for animal cruelty: R50. This amount was fixed in the 1960s, when it must have been a significant amount. But in 2016, this is a pittance.

Not just this penalty, but a lot more needs to change if the situation on the ground is to improve. First and most important, the police have to start taking these cases seriously.

True, most police forces across the country are tied up with thousands of ongoing investigations and are terribly short-staffed, but that does not mean cases of animal cruelty are somehow less important than other crimes.

Second, the laws themselves need to be amended. Even if the police start cracking down on cruelty towards animals, a fine of Rs 50 is not really a deterrent in these times. In this regard, the recent PIL in the Supreme Court seeking to amend the laws is a welcome move. And considering how proactively the apex court deals with these cases, one can expect a positive response. If and when amendments are considered, the lawmakers should also keep in mind that there is no discrimination between strays and pets, something the current laws do not account for.

The third is something that each of us can do — tell ourselves and our children, that being kind to all living beings is as important as any other moral in life.

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