Thailand Creates First Animal Welfare Law, But Is It Too Vague?

This month marked a huge step forward for animal welfare in Southeast Asia as Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed a new law prohibiting cruel treatment of animals.

While this new legislation is necessary and long overdue, the specifics of the bill are leaving many animal rights advocates concerned over its lack of clarity, raising the question — is it enough?

Thailand’s Landmark Animal Welfare Legislation

November 12, 2014 will go down in history as the day that animals were first given legal protection in Thailand, after a vote was passed by the NLA by 188-1 with four abstentions.

The new law protects not only domestic pets, but also farmed animals, working animals, animals kept for entertainment, wild animals in captivity, and any other animals under human care, prohibiting owners and carers from cruel treatment of animals and obligating them to provide adequate living conditions.

Police have been given the power to enter homes and businesses to investigate claims of animal abuse and neglect, with punishment for perpetrators can be up to THB 40,000 fine and/or up to two years in jail.

Vagueness Leaves Everything Open to Interpretation

The new law is being celebrated and criticized simultaneously by many animal rights groups as the vague wording of the law leaves everything open to interpretation.

One of the leading animal charities in Thailand, the Soi Dog Foundation, have commented on the situation, with their co-founder John Dalley saying, “Whilst welcoming the passing of Thailand’s first Animal Welfare Bill as a step in the right direction, Soi Dog Foundation has serious concerns over the lack of clarity in the legislation. All other animal welfare laws throughout the world provide very specific guidelines to enable authorities to determine what is legal and what is illegal.”

There is a clause in the law allowing the killing of animals for food, but there is no designated list of which animals this includes. Cats and dogs have been stated as not being food animals, but other than that there are no specific guidelines, which could lead to legal complications when it comes to enforcing the law.

Dally commented on this issue by likening it to “introducing a law on driving too fast. Without specifying speed limits, the decision would be left to individual police officers, and the courts, who may have different ideas as to whether a motorist was speeding or not.”

Pushing for Progress

A civil group for animal rights fronted by model Chollada “Kae” Mekratri have pushed for 20 proposals to be added to the bill to make the law much more clearly defined. Some of these include regulations for discarding of animals, keeping them in confinement, organized animal fighting, eating live animals, and prohibiting cat and dog fur trading.

While not perfect, the new ruling should be met with positivity and optimism as for the first time in history Thai law recognizes that animals have the right to legal protection. Now that this barrier has been crossed, it is time for the animal rights community to push for more comprehensive laws to be defined, increasing the level of protection and the chance of successful convictions being brought against animal abusers.

Photo Credit: Lee Phelps Photography

27 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W3 years ago

At lease one country is going in the right direction, hope many more follow.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W4 years ago

Lets hope they go further, at lease they are moving in the right direction for onc, thank you for sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W4 years ago

At least they have taken their 1st step, lets hope they go further, thank you for sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W4 years ago

Not before time at least it is a start, thank you for sharing.

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Anne Grice
Anne Grice4 years ago

Thailand's weak animal legislation is a start in the right direction without being too forceful on those who may have opposed it. I guess its not too easy but they have one now. So we Keep the pressure on and monitor its enforcement and raise issues if violated ! But flogging elephants to break its spirit has to stop, that is downright brutal and cannot be tolerated.

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Heatherjoy klein
Heatherjoy klein4 years ago

I guess it's better than nothing. Hopefully it is just a beginning.

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Claudia Acosta
Claudia A4 years ago

The lack of clarity is due to corruption, not the lack of development :(

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Miriam O.

Thanks for your time and for sharing!

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Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey4 years ago

It's a start. It obviously needs to be developed.

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