Only three weeks left for the public to comment on the Animal Protection and Welfare Bill
Although animals do not enjoy any legal rights in Namibia, their status is legally governed by the outdated 1962 Animal Protection Act. This law has proven inadequate to protect animals and to prevent cruelty against them, but this is now set to change with the recent introduction of the brand new Animal Protection and Welfare Bill.
At a ceremony on Saturday 21 September at the pens of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Windhoek, one of the society’s management committee members, Ronél Lewies, said the “Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 is some 57 years old. This Act falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice. [It] has not been reviewed, supplemented, or updated since 1962 which led to such absurdities as the maximum penalty for a contravention of the Act being a mere N$200 in 2019 – irrespective of the severity of the offense.”
In the meantime, under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, Namibia has drafted its own legislation to protect animals and ensure their welfare. Consequently, the second round of public consultation on the Animal Protection and Welfare Bill was launched during the SPCA ceremony.
As ambassador of the SPCA, the Minister of Justice, Hon Sakeus Shanghala, said Namibia seeks to become a leader in animal protection and welfare.
“Some may ask, why waste time on animal welfare when there are people being abused, tortured and neglected. Globally, there is increased understanding that there is a link between animal and human violence. This is a link that, when identified, can prevent the abuse of vulnerable victims,” he said.
Pointing to the researched correlation between animal abuse and violence, he continued “Studies correlating animal abuse and violence against women and children in the United Kingdom showed that 61.5% of convicted animal abuse offenders had also committed an assault, 17% had committed sexual abuse, and 8% had arson convictions. Animal abuse was a better predictor of sexual assault than were previous convictions for homicide, arson, or firearms offences.”
“When I saw the World Animal Protection Index in January I was driven to immediate action to improve Namibia’s world-wide animal welfare reputation. Namibia is generally known for its excellent animal welfare reputation, but it is not officially recognized. Namibia does not even feature on the World Animal Protection Index,” said the minister, adding that the indicators used for the animal protection index were also used to guide the drafting of the new bill.
Lewies responded, saying “It was thus with great excitement that we learnt that Namibia will soon emerge as a leader in the field of animal protection and welfare legislation in Africa. The Ministry of Justice, under the leadership of honourable Minister Sacky Shanghala, has undertaken the very important task as “loco parentis” of animals in Namibia, of rewriting the old Animals Protection Act. In line with international trends, the new version of the Act offers enhanced protection to animals and addresses a wide range of issues previously unregulated, or inadequately regulated.”
Conveying a sense of urgency, the minister said any person can get a copy of the new bill from his ministry website. He advised that written comments must be submitted to the ministry by 21 October 2019 as it is his intention to table the bill before 01 November.
Caption: The Minister of Justice, Hon Sakeus Shanghala (left) recently launched the second round of public consultation on the Animal Protection and Welfare Bill at a ceremony at the SPCA in Windhoek. SPCA management committee member, Ronél Lewies welcomed the minister and took him on a guided tour of the facility.