cat, frightened kitten

Turkish parliament ratifies long-awaited reform of the animal abuse law

The new law against animal abuse ceases to consider pets the property of their owner, and imposes harsh prison sentences.

The Turkish parliament ratified early this Friday the long-awaited reform of the animal abuse law – called in Turkey the Animal Protection Law – which increases sanctions and introduces prison sentences to fight against animal abuse: a reform much demanded after that in recent years several cases of abuse have outraged public opinion, although animal rights associations are not satisfied.

One of the most important changes introduced in the legislation is that animals are no longer considered as “goods” or properties – so that until now many of the penalties for abuse were measured as damage to property, if the animal had an owner – and by contrast, the legal text now refers to them as “living creatures”.

In this way, any abuse of an animal is no longer measured in legal and punitive terms as “property damage”, and will be evaluated as “damage to life“; the reform also eliminates the previous distinction between “animals with an owner” and “animals without an owner”, which in previous cases of animal abuse meant a distinction in the penalty applied, depending on whether or not the abused animal had an owner who could claim personal injury.

Prison sentences for mistreating or killing an animal

The reform also introduces prison sentences for those guilty of torturing and killing animals or harming their offspring, whether they have an owner or not. The concept of “decorative” that previously existed in the law when speaking of “home or decorative animals” is also eliminated; in addition, cases of torture, cruel treatment, rape and sexual assault against animals, which were previously considered a minor crime, become now serious crimes.

The new law imposes penalties of between 6 months and 4 years in prison for anyone who deliberately kills a pet, and between 1 and 5 years in prison for those who kill an endangered species. Prison sentences of 5 to 10 years are also introduced for harming an animal species, from 3 months to 2 years for forcing animals to fight, from 6 months to 3 years for sexually assaulting an animal, and from 6 months to 3 years for torturing or mistreating a pet.

Prohibition of animal shows

Dogs and cats will no longer be sold in stores or similar businesses, but can be chosen online and purchased through special breeding centres supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. Animal shows both on land and in water (aquariums, dolphinariums, etc.) are prohibited, and existing ones will be closed within a maximum period of 10 years.

Wildlife parks may be created if animals can roam freely and they are adapted to their original habitat and living conditions. In addition, municipalities will now be required by law to create animal shelters, if they do not already have one. Another novelty of the new law is that dog and cat owners will receive, as a deadline of December 31, 2022, a “digital ID” for their pets.

Prohibition of dangerous breeds

A list of dangerous breeds will be drawn up, the possession or breeding of which will be prohibited; until then, breeds such as the Pitbull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Argentine Dogo or the Brazilian Fila will be considered de facto as dangerous.

For those who already own any of these breeds before the entry into force of the law, they will be given a period of 6 months to sterilise their animals, which will not be able to go out without their documentation and will be obliged to always wear a muzzle and leash, not being able to walk through crowded places, parks or children’s play areas.

Despite the important changes introduced by the long-awaited reform of the animal abuse law, animal rights associations in Turkey have criticised it, saying that it continues to have deficiencies, since for example they affirm that the sale of animals other than dogs or cats will continue to be allowed in stores or on the Internet. In addition, although sexual assaults on animals are punishable by imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years, according to Turkish law, any prison sentence of less than 3 years is automatically suspended, so the offender would not enter prison.