Public Order and Peace Act - After the Public Debate
After recently held public debate on the Act on Offenses Against Public Order and Peace, and the response to our objections, which was published on esavjetovanja.gov.hr, we want to more specifically indicate why the exclusion of abuse and other mistreatment of animals from this law problematic.
We think that provision on animal abuse and other mistreatment of them in a public place should remain in the Law sanctions as an offense and that formulation of regulation is necessary and commendable:
Who unattended and carelessly holds animals that may harm or endanger citizens, or anyone who abuses animals or badly handles them in a public place shall be fined. (Article 30 of the current Act on Offenses Against Public Order and Peace)
Law motion on Offenses Against Public Order and Peace is changing the following regulation:
Article 28 Careless holdings of animals:
(1) Whoever, keeps animals without supervision in public space or carelessly keeps them, or allows movement or retention of animals that can injure or endanger citizens, other animals and property of citizens, and thus causes disturbance of citizens, shall be punished by a fine from 2.000,00 to 5,000.00 kunas.
(2) If the offense referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article results in injuries or material damage, the perpetrator shall be punished by a fine of 3,000.00 to 7,000.00 kunas.
Explanation of the proposal Article 28 states that the abuse of animals or other forms of their mistreatment are incriminated as an offense in the Animal Protection Act, and killing or torturing animals is incriminated by the Criminal Code, and is therefore abuse and bad treatment of animals are omitted in the Proposal of Law.
However, years of our experience and those of other animal protection organizations in Croatia confirm the necessity to continue treating animal abuse in a public place as a misdemeanor, as it is regulated by the already mentioned Article 30. The reasons for this are following:
1. Citizens are highly sensitized and sensitive when it comes to the mistreatment of animals. Mistreatment of animals in a public place is an act that not only threatens the safety of people and animals, but also ''unlawfully disturbs order, peace, serenity, dignity and a normal way of life of the citizens'' who witnessed the mistreatment of an animal. Animal abuse is definitely a violation of public order and should be sanctioned by the law of the same name.
2. Abuse and other mistreatment of animals in a public place undoubtedly causes anxiety of citizens, especially parents who have the right to protect their children from harassment caused by watching scenes of mistreatment of animals in public. Citizens must be able to report such situations as violations which are sanctioned by the Law on offenses against public order.
3. People who abuse animals in a public place are potentially dangerous to other humans, and that is why quick action by police is necessary under the Act on offenses against public order.
4. Omission of abuse and other maltreatment of animals in Article 28 of the Draft Act can not be argued in two other provisions of the law which regulates the field of animal protection in other ways and in other areas, and which can not be applied when it comes to abuse and other maltreatment of animals in public.
5. Article 28 of the Act motion on Offenses against public order and peace takes over from the Animal Protection Act provision, Article 48, paragraph 4, but at the same time rejects the abuse of animals in a public place, arguing that it is already criminalized as an offense in the Animal Protection Act. Selective picking of components of the Animal Protection Act provision does not make sense, especially because of rejecting the decree on sanctioning of animal abuse in a public place, which as such does not exist in the Animal Protection Act.
6. The animal protection Act does not directly regulate the animal abuse in public. Article 4 of the Animal protection Act has a general provision that prohibits ''killing animals, their pain, suffering and injury, and intentional exposing to fear, contrary to the provisions of this Act''. Veterinary inspectors and municipal security guards are responsible for implementation of this law. They come to the field after a written application has been submitted and they verify allegations from it later, which means that people can not call them directly when witnessing abuse and other mistreatment of animals in a public place, which requires immediate and rapid response.
7. Article 205 of the Criminal Code refers to the killing or torturing animals, and sanctions if ''someone kills the animal without reasonable excuse or is abusing it, applies unnecessary pain or exposes it to unnecessary suffering''. Responsible for the implementation of this provision is the police. But abuse and other mistreatment of animals in a public place often does not have marks of criminal act. For example, when someone in a public place behaves aggressively towards a dog he/she hits it by foot. Doing such a thing to a dog can make him dangerous for other people who are passing by. Police can only help in those situations with quick response, but they must have a provision in the Act on Offenses against public order and peace by which it can act as described behavior is not severe abuse and torture of animals what sanctions the Criminal Code.
8. All of the above mentioned indicates that in situations of abuse and other maltreatment of animals in a public place, when peace and order are threatened, only police can act effectively and quickly. To make this possible, the police must have the provision to which they may refer to for taking action. Only veterinary inspection and community constabulary can react on the violation of the Animal Protection Act, but this is not possible in situations when public order is disturbed because those services operate only on the basis of the application, and after a few days or even longer. These are the institutions that have their working hours and citizens can not call on weekends, holidays or at night, that is, when only the police can help determine what is going on.
As far as Article 205 of the Criminal Code is concerned police in some situations of disrupting public order and peace has no basis for action under that provision. If there is a criminal offense, then this includes engagement of the municipal state prosecution and lengthy court proceedings. In the mistreatment of animals in public fast action of police is necessary to prevent the torture of animals, but also potential attack of tortured and abused animals on the witnesses of events, and thus again disruption of public order. It is therefore essential that the Act on offenses against public order and peace further prescribes sanctioning abuse and other maltreatment of animals in public. Otherwise, we can expect that the police will be disabled when necessary to respond to the mistreatment of animals in a public place, where the most committed violations are happening.
9. We point out that animal protection groups have educated citizens for many years to be conscientious associates and assistants to the police, and thus the proposed Article 28 of the law will discourage them from reporting incident because the police will not have mechanisms for action. This creates the danger of self-initiated organization of citizens and taking justice into their own hands. Therefore, we believe that the retention of the existing Article 30 of the Act necessary needs to allow citizens to call the police to help animals and people who are in that moment threatened.
10. We want to draw attention to the part of the proposed Article 28, which states the possibility of causing distress of citizens as a result of careless keeping animals or keeping them unattended or keeping animals that can injure or endanger citizens, other animals and property of citizens. We thank to explanation what is meant by ''keeping the animals'', but we are concerned that the concept of ''anxiety'' could be interpreted subjectively, and that would mean that people could misuse animals to solve their mutual disputes.
Although we believe that the proponents amendments to Article 30 of the Offenses against public peace and order have good intentions, we want to point out that this would make police work considerably more difficult in practise and it would prevent citizens to react to cases of violation of public order because of abuse and other maltreatment of animals. Therefore, we appeal that Article 28 of the Draft Law takes over quality formulation of Article 30 of the current Act to avoid regression of these important provisions.