The Senate Standing Committee on Interior passed “The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2018” this Tuesday. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act –an outdated law that has largely remained unheeded-deems maltreatment of any domestic and captured animals as a punishable.

Presently, Punjab is the only province in the country where the Society for Prevention of Cruelty (SPCA) to Animals exists under the 1890 act and people are fined, though nominally, for maltreating animals, while there is no custodian of the 1890 act to implement it in the other three provinces.

Under the SPCA, the fine for killing an animal with unnecessary cruelty was just Rs200, which under the current bill is suggested to be increased to Rs300,000 along with imprisonment. Similar penalization is proposed for inciting animals to fight and abandoning sick animals. While penalizing offenders is a promising deterrent, and the bill goes along way in establishing a platform for promulgating animal rights, there are many aspects of the Act that require reform. The provision of facilities for restitution of sick animals that have been mistreated should also be taken into account as well as setting up government facilities for neutering and vaccination stray animals. Private initiatives should be supported and encouraged and animal shelters should be facilitated. Where the original law gives authority to the police to search and take action against animal cruelty, it would be more effective to empower and entrust enforcement the Society itself, delinking it from the enforcement mechanism and its gaping inefficiencies.

In Pakistan highlighting abuse of animals is regarded as flippant in the face of human right violations. However, the way we choose to treat all sentient life forms reflects our moral, ethical and communal behavior and our conscience as a society. Ultimately, if there is a collective initiative to recognize and value all forms of life, our communities will internalize that message and learn to respect each other.