Save Gibraltar Street Cats has welcomed the recently-announced overhaul of Gibraltar’s animal welfare legislation, which was more than 50 years old.
The group had lobbied government for some time to implement many of the changes contained in the proposed legislation.
It said the Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill 2018 marks “a sea change” by increasing penalties for animal cruelty and provides better protection for animals by increasing the powers of the authorities to protect animals and punish those who abuse them.
The key changes include an increase in penalties for animal cruelty to a maximum of five years, as well as the extension of the powers of arrest to local residents.
“Animal cruelty is not acceptable in any form,” the group said in statement.
“Unfortunately cats are too often the victims of cruelty by members of our community and this increase in penalty states to those abusers that such cruelty will not be tolerated.”
Other changes include an extension of the protection afforded to domestic animals to all animals, a reflection that no animal should be afforded less protection because of its ownership status.
“Cruelty is cruelty and this change makes that clear,” the group said.
The draft legislation also envisages new powers of entry for authorised officers to protect animals in distress.
“We look forward to a day when no animal will suffer or die in a locked room or a hot car,” the group noted.
The proposed legislation also includes an amendment to make abandonment of an animal an offence in and of itself, detaching it from any requirement for an element of “unnecessary cruelty”.
The group said the previous law took an outdated approach, adding that abandoning animals increases the burden on charities such as SGSC and the public services.
“An animal as a pet is a lifelong commitment and irresponsible people abandoning those animals will now know that that the law will punish them if they cast animals aside,” the group added.
Julie Watson of the SGSC, said: “We are extremely grateful for the time and effort committed to this project by the Government of Gibraltar, and the Minister for the Environment in particular.”
“We very much welcome the way in which Government engaged with SGCS and the charity sector as a whole to produce the Bill.”
“We are delighted that such a strong message is being sent to the community that cruelty to animals is not acceptable in any form.”