Kaavan Amir Khalil
In this Sept. 4, 2020, file photo, Dr. Amir Khalil, a veterinary doctor from the international animal welfare organization "Four Paws" comforts an elephant named "Kaavan" during his examination at the Maragzar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Pakistan has announced its first comprehensive animal welfare law which includes punishments for animal cruelty crimes and bans testing and surgeries on live animals.

Salman Sufi, head of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s strategic reforms unit, said that the law will be currently enacted in Islamabad and the federal government would encourage the provinces to implement it. Pakistani animal rights activists had long demanded amendments to the British-era law to address animal cruelty and abuse through effective legislation and its implementation.

The reforms include tougher punishments for animal cruelty crimes. The offenders now face Rs15,000 ($73) fine and jail term. The citizens would be able to report any act of cruelty toward animals through a hotline 1819 in Islamabad’s capital territory.

Most importantly, testing and surgeries on live animals have been banned at veterinary schools and industrial complexes in the federal capital city under the animal welfare law. A standard set of guidelines and regulations for pet markets would also be announced, Sufi said, adding that violators would be fined and their shops could be closed.

A comprehensive law would be tabled in the next session of parliament for implementation at the national level.

Animal welfare reforms

• All live animal testing banned

• Report cruelty against animals at 1819 in Islamabad

• Shooting and poisoning animals banned

• Pet shop regulations and standards

• Rs. 5,000-15,000 along with a jail term for animal cruelty offenders.

PETA hails landmark reforms in Pakistan

Shalin Gala, vice-president at the global animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), praised the country for introducing “landmark reforms” that will “ban tests and surgeries on live animals for veterinary education and result in a shift to sophisticated, humane methods.”

In an official statement, Gala said that PETA is delighted to have shared recommendations for improving veterinary training with the Pakistani prime minister’s strategic reforms unit. The organisation said they would be working with the government on more critical reforms in biomedical research and training that will both spare animals’ lives and benefit human patients.

PETA said that they sent urgent letters to Pakistani officials, calling to ban harmful and medically unnecessary veterinary training exercises on animals.

The reforms have been announced after widespread outrage in Pakistan over videos that went viral in May showing animals in states of extreme distress after allegedly being operated upon by veterinary students. Protests were also held in Islamabad by animal lovers and rescue organisations against the brutal and inhumane surgeries on dogs at veterinary universities and demanding swift action by the government against unethical practices.