Duke is the dog that became a symbol against animal abuse, after his muzzle was cut with a machete. (Albert Marín, La Nacion)

Q COSTA RICA – Costa Rica finally as a tough law against the mistreatment of animals, with the approval on Thursday, in second debate, of the Ley de Bienestar Animal (18.625) – Animal Welfare Law, which punishes with sanctions of up to three years in prison.

The harsh punishment is for the mistreatment or purposly causing the death of an animal.

With the approval, the responsibilitus of animal owners will be regulated, with the objective of guaranteeing the animal basic vital conditions and proper management, in accordance to goos veterinary hygiene and public health practices.

The legislation also hits hard at animal fights (dog fights, cock fights, etc.) sanctions with three months to one year in prison for anyone who directly or through another person organzies or holds animals fights. A fine of one-fourth to one-half of a base salary to those who promote, train or breed animals for fights.

The law defines what is considered a domestic animal and provides exemptions from sanctions in cases such as fishing, aquaculture, livestock, veterinary, sanitary or phytosanitary control, reproductive control and hygiene of animal species.

Also exempt from sanctions are, among others, the transport and activties of animals in public or private shows in compliance with the provisions of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG).

That is to say, the traditional bullfights (in Costa Rica the bull is never injured or killed) will be able to continue, as with animal shows and exihibitions.

As to what is considered a domestic animal, in law the definition includes “a domestic animal is all that by its evolutionary and behavioral characteristics coexists with the human being, and a domesticated animal to the extent that through the efforts of the human being has changed its wild condition.

“We have to be very happy, without exception, political parties, social organizations, communities, families, legislators, because together we have reached a new point in our national development,” said Solís.

The law now requires the signature of the President and publication in the official government publication, La Gaceta, to go into effect.