China begins taking comments on proposed Animal Protection Law

China has completed a draft of its first-ever “Animal Protection Law,” and has begun to seek public input.

The proposed law was drafted by a team of more than 20 people from China and other countries. If passed, those found guilty of animal cruelty would be fined up to 6,000 yuan ($877) and two weeks in prison. The law would also require microchips in pets, and prohibit owners from breeding their pets.

One section of the proposed law deals with witnesses to animal cruelty. In an article in the Yangtze Daily, the author of the “General Provisions” section, Wuhan University Professor Cai Shouqiu talked about some of the law’s provisions. Cai said that under the law, those who witness animal abuse would have the right to represent the animal in court.

People also have the right to defend themselves against aggressive animals, Cai said. But they must be careful not to violate the animal’s rights.

“In a situation where you could avoid [the dog] or run away, but you choose to chase it and beat it, you could be suspected of using ‘excessive defense,’” Cai is quoted as saying in the article.

The draft has also met with some criticism. Tianjin City lawyer Ren Xiufu offered his thoughts in an article in the Tianjin Express newspaper.

“There are some punitive measures that are just not workable,” Ren said. “For example, ‘Harassing animals and creating unnecessary pain or injury to animals;’ from an enforcement standpoint, how do you delimit and understand this? If a law is promulgated before it has operable punitive measures, respect for the law will be forfeit. In that case, it is better not to even have a law.”

The draft still has a long way to go before becoming law. It must first go through the State Council and receive three readings at the country’s top legislative body, the National Peoples Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC). However, the China Daily reported that the draft was not included in the NPCSC’s legislative agenda (2008-2013), which means it may be several years before it is considered.

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