Tue, 19 Jan 2021

ISTANBUL, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- As general awareness is boosting for animal rights in Turkey, the ruling party has taken a long-awaited bill which aims to curb violence against animals back on its agenda amid calls for its adoption in parliament.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is reportedly working on a legislative proposal promoting strict laws on animal rights abuses and cruelty.

According to the Hurriyet daily, AKP's parliament administrator Ozlem Zengin gave a presentation on the content of the proposal at the party's executive committee this week, saying that, following the budget talks this month, the bill will finally be signed into law.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also the head of the AKP, responded to Zengin and said "do not delay it any longer," the newspaper said.

The much-anticipated law will redefine animals as living beings instead of "properties," and perpetrators would be subjected to prison sentences. Currently, crime against animals is punished with lenient fines, and courts have handed down light sentences in a few exceptionally brutal cases.

Animal rights organizations are cautiously optimistic about the faith of this bill.

"We don't want to celebrate until the bill is signed into law. In the past, we came close to a vote, but it didn't materialize because of the hostility of interest groups to this legislation, such as pet shop owners," Pelin Sayilgan, the Ankara representative of the Turkish Animal Right Federation, told Xinhua.

"We have been disappointed several times in the past, but we are still committed to work for a better life for animals in our country," she added.

This NGO has been working to raise public awareness on animal rights to create a more respectful community towards animals in Turkey, a country where stray dogs and cats are an inherent part of daily life in big cities and treated with compassion.

The new legislation aims to respond to public outcry after a series of animal murders and mutilations, with many of the perpetrators getting away with fines only.

In late November, the plight of a young golden retriever caused a public outcry and made headlines. The dog had his front paws hacked off by its owner after his furious neighbor broke its limbs to stop it from attacking his chickens in the northern Black Sea port city of Samsun.

The owner of the badly-injured but recovering dog and the neighbor have only been fined a total of 800 Turkish liras, just over 100 U.S. dollars.

Under the new law, maltreatment and cruelty against animals would be a criminal offense punishable by at least two years in prison. Pets would be tagged with a microchip, enabling them to be tracked properly. Owners of abandoned pets would also be fined.

The bill also suggests prohibiting pet trade, animal circuses, and dolphinariums across the country and city zoos in which animals are kept in confined spaces.

Pet shops would also have to obey the measures. They will only be allowed to sell animals online and will be required to keep them in their natural habitat until adopted.

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