June 2014

Law 057: A Law for an Animal,
a Law for All

Heloise Texier examines the new law proposed to help prevent animal cruelty and considers how it will benefit more than just the animals of Bolivia…

By: Heloise Texier
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Brussels – Belgium

Dogs in a shelter
Photo: Heloise Texier

Despite the existence of many international declarations on animal rights such as the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights (UDAR) and the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW), ADDA Bolivia and other associations are still rescuing many tortured or mistreated animals on a daily basis. A basic legal framework is needed to prevent and punish these barbarities. Draft legislation 057, proposed in August 2012 to the President of the Deputies’ Chamber of the Bolivian Plurinational Assembly, tackles these issues and many more.

A Human Duty

If the famous words of Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” were applied to Bolivia, the country would get a bad surprise when finding out its ranking.

Bolivia is one of the most backward countries in South America regarding defense and animal rights. Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and recently Peru have ratified laws acknowledging that animals have rights, and should be considered as such. “Like anyone, animals also possess a nervous system and therefore the ability to feel pain and to suffer,” stipulate the different declarations. Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, did recognize at the UN General Assembly in 2010 that “The earth does not belong to us, but we belong to it,” adding that “Mother Earth has the right to a peaceful coexistence with nature,” implying a sound relation between all living beings.

Nevertheless, nastiness and aggression towards animals and nature are still highly topical. Why is this? “The lack of education, the lack of awareness, and the lack of a legal basic framework,” argued Lilliana Perez, president of ADDA Bolivia, adding,

“Most of those who torture animals in their youth are the ones who later become criminals or murderers.”

Indeed, the loss of respect for life doesn’t harm only animals, but all of us. Law 057 reminds us first of our duty as humans, whilst listing in different chapters resolutions to restore the culture of living in harmony all together.

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” (Nelson Mandela). Article 80 of the Bolivian constitution states that “Education shall aim at the integral formation of a person; strengthening his critical social consciousness in life and for life.” Even so, the cases of extreme cruelty and mistreatment against living beings are increasing and becoming a social problem. Law 057 specifies that according to a study of prevalence of domestic violence, “People who have lived or witnessed violent acts before they’re seven years old; and especially against animals through media or other resources, are most likely to become offenders and abusers.”

Waiting for you
Photo: Heloise Texier

The government needs to condemn torture “in the name of fun” to ensure that the children of today, who are the adults of tomorrow, will grow up with respect for life of all living beings. This important aspect is taken into account in Law 057, as Article 15 reminds the media of its educational duties.

Important questions as how an animal with rabies can be recognized, what to do about it, and dispelling myths about rabies are some of the issues that should be tackled by the media. This could reduce the fear of street dogs, which often leads to cruelty through ignorance; if recognized by the media it could allow a safe future for our children and a peaceful existence for all.

The Endlessly Barking Dogs of Cochabamba

In Cochabamba, the ratification of the law could help in many ways. More than forty thousand (40,000) homeless dogs (estimation 2011, Zoonosis de Cochabamba) are searching for a home. On the other hand, the bad habit of breeding dogs and disposing of them is still part of the culture and makes any attempts of canine population control impossible.

This problem isn´t new, and unfortunately doesn´t seem to settle down. The dog population in Cochabamba has actually quadrupled since 2007 (the estimation by Zoonosis at the time was fifteen thousand (15,000)). This overpopulation brings – aside from sleepless nights – the endless listening to barking dogs, traffic accidents, and unsanitary and health problems such as rabies. Changing our way of thinking and living is not easy, which is why a law is necessary to frame our actions and of others.

“If they don’t comply for the love of the animal, at least they comply due to the fine,” said Liliana sadly.

This practice of abandonment is defined as “animal abuse”: emotional and physical distress that is a real source of potential harm to the animal’s health or natural development. Moreover, Article19.2a defines abandonment as an act of cruelty. Law 057 provides different penalties for this abuse, which can differ according to the gravity of the act: fines, loss of animal custody, community work, even imprisonment for the worst cases (which include trafficking of wild animals, torture, biocide, and zoophilia).

Street dogs
Photo: Heloise Texier

Applying the law will permit Cochabambinos not only to enjoy quieter nights but to also evolve in a safer world. The relationship of violence against humans and animals deserves a simultaneous and joint prevention.

Law 057 provides dierent penalties for this abuse, which can dier according to the gravity of the act: fines, loss of animal custody, community work, even imprisonment for the worst cases.

Only the prevention of the former will manage to eliminate the latter and vice versa!

El Quechuañol
The Bolivian Constitution recognizes 37 official languages in Bolivia, but most people speak Spanish or Quechua, which are two very di’erent languages. So, how can people understand each other while they do not speak the same language?
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