The government’s animal protection bill may include stipulations addressing pet owners’ criminal liability in the event that their pets attack humans, the legislature’s 1st Standing Committee President Kwan Tsui Hang said on Monday.
Kwan made the remark after a meeting with government officials, including Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan and Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) President Alex Vong Iao Lek, about the bill.
Kwan said that pet owners’ rights and responsibilities needed both to be addressed by the bill. “As pet owners, are they responsible for protecting other people’s lives? If their pets affect people’s lives and safety, the pets can’t be held criminally liable. But do the owners need to be held responsible? The [current wording of the] bill… does not mention anything about it,” said Kwan.
The lawmaker-cum-unionist also said members of her committee raised the issue with government officials during the meeting, adding they felt it was necessary to add stipulations that deal with such a situation so that owners can be held criminally liable for their pets.
“Humans have to bear the responsibility for abusing animals. But when animals hurt humans, their owners need to be held accountable,” she said.
Kwan also said since there may be further revisions of the bill, it was likely that the committee could finalise its discussions so that the bill would most likely undergo an article-by-article plenary vote only in the next legislative term after the summer break starting next month.
In addition, the lawmaker also said the majority of her committee’s members backed the government’s plan to set the maximum prison term for animal abuse at just one year, noting that there are laws stipulating that recidivists face harsher sentences than first-time offenders.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Chan said that anyhow the penalty for animal abuse will be tougher than before since it will be considered a criminal offence under the bill, adding the aim was to stop people from mistreating animals.
She pointed out that currently animal abuse can only be dealt with by administrative means.
The policy secretary also said the government would regularly review the articles of the bill once it becomes law, and, if necessary, would propose further amendments.