Does animal welfare legislation exist in Russia?
An article we wrote on misrepresentation in the Russian press and the real state of play in animal welfare legislation. We feel the government has not been putting enough thought and effort about resolving real issues / changing long awaited legislation relating to irresponsible pet ownership, lack of animal registration. Instead fuelling ‘hope’ and keeping people pacified about ‘solutions which are near passing in to law’. We are giving a realistic unbiased view from our experience on working on these laws with the government machine.
In recent years, in the press, there were many articles on legislative ‘projects’ related to animals and affecting the regulation of relations in this sphere. We decided to find out the real state of affairs. It turned out that many, even quite respectable and respected media rush to conclusions and often wishful thinking that causes excessive illusions about progress and lack of action with the public.
Many initiatives surfaced during this time – from the restrictions on the “dogs of dangerous breeds” and ending with a few attempts to change the 245 article of the Criminal Code, not to mention the numerous proposals in the draft of a comprehensive federal law “On the responsibility of the treatment of animals”.
Big Hearts Foundation has been working with several Duma members, drafting and submitting legislation, one of them is the rewriting of (so it can be applied) the 245 Anti cruelty Legislation and increase punishments for cases like this bear who was ridden over on purpose 7 times. The ruling party however keeps finding excuses and answers why it is ok to leave the law as it is, despite only daily evidence to the contrary: Cases of unspeakable cruelty are plenty about, but in 2014 only 15(!) cases were opened under legislation 245 across all of Russia.
Recently, the paper “Vesti” published an article with a title which would make anyone think that there is (and has been put in action) a bill that would oblige the owners of dogs dangerous breeds to insure their civil responsibility for the harm caused by their pets. If one delves into the issue deeper, we can understand that this is just an idea of insurance companies, which they very much want to bring to life, but no more.
How, in practice, do these ideas can become a reality?
First, a group of interested people has to study arguments from each camp and the legal basis for such a law. Then one of them with appropriate legal education and writes a bill that is supported by Duma members who submit this bill for consideration to the ruling party / government. By the way, the majority of bills introduced never materialize. Only a few, after the hard work of making several amendments have a chance to become law. There are plenty of ‘ Ideas” in society about animal welfare, but very few who are willing to engage in a long and painstaking work to convince authorities about what needs to change. That is why Big Hearts Foundation is need of all the help we can get to be able to continue the real investigative, lobbying work for a variety of properly written legislation.
There are other laws concerning what to do with stray animals, governing this practise. There are laws concerning wild animals and keeping / trade in exotic pets. And meanwhile there is the issue of raising responsibility for their pets amongst citizens – something the whole population has been waiting for many years. One of the key parts of the solution is a mandatory registration and identification (in the form of microchipping). Liability insurance for ownership of dangerous breeds of animals – is a first small step in the right direction, but, unfortunately, not yet covering the whole “sphere of irresponsibility” in relation to all the other animals. Currently compulsory registration of pets is defined by the government as “difficult to be administered,” “difficult to achieve”. The main problems in this matter is the cost of introducing the system; what system to use; Who exactly will be chipped, what are the penalties for non-compliance with the mandatory registration and who will charge. In fact, to introduce compulsory registration of such a chipping happened in many countries. For the system to work, it needs to provide this citizens at minimum cost ( according to our estimates, no more than 200 rubles. per chip).
This system eliminates current problems to a minimum associated with self-walkin dogs (letting owned dogs roam free), discarding animals on the street, dog bites, irresponsible owners – in general, improve the culture of keeping animals in the country. This system works, and works well in most developed countries.
The only thing that is required of the State – to provide software registration system to Russia, or to copy an existing one in Russia. Although there are press articles filled with optimism, the Committee of the State Duma on Natural Resources, Environment and Ecology, working on the draft federal law “On the responsibility of handling the animals” has not shown real desire to work in this direction, the attitude to any system of registration, is rather negative. And yet people continue to hope that the state not just drops good ideas for the media, but will engage in real development and practical application of laws in Russia and offer successful solutions to problems associated with animals.
For this to happen more professionals need to get involved, the government needs to attract experts and deep dive into existing proposals. Passing proper legislation will involve making difficult decisions that will not please everyone, even if they carry a sound welfare basis (like taxation and mandatory registration).