Animals, like human beings, are sentient, living beings capable of experiencing various degrees of pain and emotional suffering, and hence deserve our attention, care and protection. Those are the opening words to the Act on the Protection of Animals against Cruelty, which the Czech government wants to amend in order to further crackdown on inhumane commercial pet breeding centres.
The draft amendment approved by the government on Monday is targeting puppy farms and other commercial pet breeders operating under “unfavourable conditions” or on such a large scale as “to cause suffering or deny dogs and cats their needs”.
A commercial breeder found to have endangered the “physiological, biological or ethological needs” of the animals up for sale would face fines of up to a half million crowns (less than 20,000 euros). If they fail to keep accurate health and pedigree records, they also would face fines of up to 50,000 crowns (2,000 euros).
But if signed into law, would the measures have teeth? Critics say the country has failed to allocate enough resources to enforce existing measures. Furthermore, pedigrees and vaccination reports are easily faked and hard to verify, if signed by unscrupulous veterinarians. And the problem is also about brokers – people who resell animals bred in countries with less stringent laws or enforcement measures.
Tereza Plicka is co-founder of the non-profit whistle-blower group Hlas zvířat (A Voice for Animals), along with her husband, a lawyer recently awarded by the Czech Bar Association for his pro bono work in bringing abusive breeders and sellers to justice. They have long lobbied to amend current law.
“It can truly amount to cruelty to animals. They’re crowded into cages in horrible conditions. Of course, there’s no veterinary care when the breeder only cares about maximising profits. The dogs are covered in excrement because they are not let out. It might even be years before they are sold and they’ve never seen grass.”
In particular, popular, lucrative breeds such as Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers may be forced to breed before having reached maturity, are kept in a near constant state of pregnancy or nursing, and pumped full of hormones to increase their fertility. All of which lead to problems for mother and offspring alike, such as heart and kidney disease and other congenital defects.
“Health problems are another issue. People think they are getting a bargain if they buy a Chihuahua without proper papers for a few thousand crowns. But they don’t know what state the dog is really in. It’s a ‘pig in a poke’. The animal could die in a matter of weeks. Many have not been vaccinated or dewormed, let alone cared for.”
Among other things, the draft amendment to the Act on Animal Cruelty now before the lower house of Parliament also sets stricter conditions on the number of litters dogs and cats can have. At most it would be three in two years.
It sets stricter conditions on the breeding of wild and so-called circus or performing animals. The move was in part spurred by the recent killing of an unlicensed trainer by his pet lion and the illegal sale of tiger parts by a relative of the famous Czech circus family Berousek.
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