Blok: swifter response to animal abuse

Minister Blok of Security and Justice intends to make changes to the legislature to allow for quicker and more effective intervention when animal abuse and neglect are discovered. The Public Prosecution Service and the court will be granted additional options for responding with appropriate measures in cases involving animal welfare. This was expressed in a letter, including recommendations for a legislative amendment, sent to the House of Representatives today.

Soon, the court will have be able to issue an independent sanction in the form of a ban on keeping animals for a period of up to five years. This option will also include a location injunction, in case the convicted person did not abuse his or her own animals, but those of others, such as animals at a petting zoo or a stable.
Currently, the court may already issue a ban on keeping animals as a special condition attached to a suspended sentence. In the event the offender violates this ban, they must then serve the entire sentence – yet the ban on keeping animals will be lifted. The latter result is undesirable in light of the risk of recidivism and in the interest of animal welfare. In such cases, an independent sanction is helpful, allowing the ban on keeping animals to remain in effect following a violation. This prevents the offender from once again owning animals at a later date. Another advantage is that the independent sanction may also be applied for a longer period of time when a lesser offence has been committed. Such a sanction would be geared toward prevention.
If we are to protect animals properly, we must be able to act swiftly. For this reason, the court will be given the option of having the independent sanction enter into force immediately following the verdict. This will make the ban on keeping animals effective, even in cases where there are subsequent appeal or cassation proceedings. The same will be possible in connection with the special condition. Minister Blok also proposes making the violation of a ban on keeping animals, issued as part of an independent sanction, an offence in and of itself. This would constitute a new offence, with the benefit that the police can then intervene quickly and seize the animals in question.
In order to minimise the risk of recidivism, the public prosecutor may also issue a behaviour order, stating that the suspect may not keep any animals until the hearing. Individuals who commit acts of animal abuse and neglect are especially prone to repeat them, due to a range of social and psychic problems. Such a behaviour order is in effect for a term of 90 days and may be extended three times. This guarantees compliance with and monitoring of the ban on keeping animals in the period preceding the verdict.
Lastly, the minister is also in favour of harsher measures for bite incidents involving aggressive dogs. Not only will encouraging an animal to act aggressively towards another animal become a crime, the failure to sufficiently restrain an attacking animal will as well. This represents an expansion of the current law, in which it is an offence to encourage an animal to act aggressively towards a human being. While at present the latter remains an infraction, it will soon – based on the nature and severity of the damage bite incidents can inflict – be classified as a crime. It will then carry a maximum sentence of up to one year. When a crime is suspected, it will be easier to seize the animal. In that case, the police will soon be authorised to enter a residence.