Animals, like humans, have rights. While the debate still rages on whether a pet is a person's property or a companion with feelings, many countries and states have enacted laws designed to protect animal rights. The effort to establish laws that will protect animals from abuse and ensure their proper treatment is ongoing and gaining ground.
In the United States, the landmark law is the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (AWA) that regulates the treatment of animals. It is enforced by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its agency the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The law covers all warm-blooded animals used in laboratory tests, experiments, exhibits as well as those used or sold as pets.
In 2007, the Animal Fighting Prohibition Reinforcement Act made animal fighting a felony with up to 3 years' imprisonment for violators. Even trading in objects for animal fighting, such as gaffs, is considered a felony under the law. In 2008, more laws were enacted prohibiting the sale of dogs below 6 months of age and ensuring that they are healthy and properly vaccinated. Penalties for violations were also raised to $10,000 per day for every animal, and 5 years' imprisonment.
Other nations have their own laws designed to protect animal rights. For example, India has the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act; Japan the Welfare and Management of Animals Act; Taiwan the Taiwanese Animal Protection Act; the UK Animal Welfare Act 2006. In the USA, many cities and states have enacted their own laws over and above the AWA provisions.
Spearheading the effort to improve laws regarding animal rights is an organization called In Defense of Animals (IDA). Founded by Dr. Elliot Katz, a veterinarian, the organization aims to “end animal exploitation, cruelty and abuse.” The IDA seeks to raise the “status (of animals) beyond mere property, commodities or things” through “advocating for the rights, welfare, and habitats of animals.” Through the years, the organization has been successful in many projects to improve the welfare of animals.
Fighting for rights, whether of human or non-human creatures, can be a long and difficult task. Animal lovers everywhere, however, are confident that the battle for animal rights will eventually be won.
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