WSPA helps Nicaragua enact strict animal welfare laws

Fear of rabies renders dogs vulnerable to misdirected and needless cruelty

WSPA hails the introduction of this far-reaching animal welfare legislation in the 7-million strong nation in Central America. The legislation rewards five years of effort by WSPA, together with local NGOs AMARTE and member societies CJA and UCC.

Amongst its articles, the ‘Law for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Animals and Domesticated Wild Animals’ creates the new crime of “biocide” for unwarranted killing of domestic animals or domesticated wild animals, punishable under the Penal Code and incurring a jail term for offenders. 

Bullfighting cruelty banned

In another historic move, cruelty against animals in ‘any form of entertainment’ is also outlawed, most importantly meaning a ban on any killing or injury to bulls in bullfights. Although the practice is not as commonplace in Nicaragua as it is in other parts of the world, it forms a traditional part of annual local celebrations, and so prohibition delivers a major victory for animal welfare supporters.

In another significant move, circuses which include wild animals like bears, elephants, lions and tigers, will also be banned from entering Nicaragua. This effectively ensures that there can be no passage by road through Central America for such travelling circuses. 

Concessions to culture

A few concessions to Nicaraguan culture seemed necessary to ensure the legislation would get easy passage through parliament – indeed, it received an overwhelming 74 votes in favour with only five against. As part of the concessions, popular rodeo shows are not covered by the ban, nor is the most institutionalised and widely-accepted form of animal cruelty in Nicaragua: cock fighting. However, a pledge to make the practice ‘less bloody’ was included.

Another far-reaching article of the law bans showing violence against animals on television or in the cinema, except where it is to raise awareness.

Promoting responsible treatment

The law not only prohibits cruelty, it also seeks to increase awareness of animal welfare issues.

Working equines, very commonplace in this predominantly agrarian country, and often overworked, will also be protected under the legislation, with minimum standards of treatment introduced. Until now, only wild animals enjoyed some degree of protection in Nicaragua, but the new law covers pets, working equines and wildlife in captivity.

UDAW eased the way

The road to this significant victory began five years ago, when WSPA and its Nicaraguan member societies began conceiving a new legal instrument that could meet the present needs of animals. The campaign received a significant boost in 2009, when the government decided to give its support to a Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare (UDAW).

The new law is being seen as the most tangible sign of the government’s support of the UDAW campaign. Marcela Vargas, Campaigns Manager for WSPA’s Central America office, said: “This law is a milestone in a long journey to elevate animal welfare in a country were animal welfare need has been a historical concern.”

“The approval of this animal welfare law in Nicaragua is a reason for celebration with the Nicaraguan people and its animals. We wish to congratulate the Deputies of the Republic of Nicaragua for their will to make this law a happy reality.”

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