A Review of the Recent Animal Welfare Law

By: Federico Jankilevich

Attorney At Law

Copyright 2017 – All Rights Reserved

This past month the local media have highlighted the recent progress of Congress pertaining the approval of the Animal Welfare Law legislative project.


While the initiative in itself can be deemed a success and a milestone for animal lovers of Costa Rica throughout, there are several questions pertaining the rights and responsibilities of animal owners that still remained unanswered.


The new regulations establish Criminal Sanctions for people who abuse or misuse animal proprietorship. While at the residential level, this strengthens citizens duties and builds towards a healthier society, not the same can be said at the commercial and industrial level. In terms of experimentation, there are stringent limitations as to the use of animals for experimentation. While local corporations seek to strengthen Research and Development, little is said in the new law pertaining disruptive methods and animal experimentation. What happens when the animals to be experimented with need to be disposed of because the experiment requires the use of vital organs? How are these procedures to be regulated? Are they to be forbidden at all? The fact that sometimes the lives of animals needs to be sacrificed for the betterment of Science and Humanity is controversial. In this sense, the new law is not very precise.


Other weaknesses governing the new law pertain to specific fields of Animal Welfare Law such as the possession, trade, breed, import, export or release of wild species. More precise parameters are required in terms of the definition, ruling and regulation governing such animals. This has been historically a central concern of Animal Welfare and has not been accurately addressed in the new law.


Another aspect that is lacking in the new law pertains to motor vehicles and large animals. Little is said in the new law about what happens when an accident occurs as a result of approaching a cow, horse or other draft animals being led, ridden or driven and the animal becoming scared. In this sense, more precise parameters must be specified to strengthen the safety of citizens and large animals alike.


Finally, its important to stand out that while the new law is strongly Protectionist when it comes to Animal Rights, little is said about the protection of private citizens from smaller animals and  Third-Party liability. More preventive regulatory measures should be provisioned to stop persons from becoming injured or damaged as a result of a latent and/or imminent risk. How should you react if you’re in the street and your neighbour’s dog bites you? Is there a liability for soft-retaliation such as using a stun-gun to neutralise a dog without producing long-term damage to the animal to protect yourself? There is a statistical precedent that is not sufficiently addressed. It can be inferred from a technical review of the legislative project that further research must be conducted at the macro-statistical level pertaining third-party liability. Meta-Studies must be completed, quantitative studies must be furthered and qualitative feedback should be implemented more to strengthen the newly enacted law.


In conclusion, the approval of the legislation is bittersweet. While it constitutes a Historical Landmark in terms of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, not enough is said to protect the merchant, the producer, the manufacturer, the researcher or the pedestrian.


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