31 March 2017

New animal welfare law approved in Guatemala

After years of dedicated advocacy work by Brooke’s Guatemalan partners ESAP we are delighted to announce that a new animal welfare law has been passed by the country’s congress. 

President of the congress receiving the animal welfare law initiative

The law aims to establish protection standards for animals and to eradicate and punish mistreatment and cruelty.

ESAP (Healthy Equines for the People) worked in coalition with Humane Society International, Guatemala's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA) and the National University to get the law passed. Going forward, animals will be legally recognised as living and sentient beings, not just assets, as it was before.  Owners of these animals will be officially responsible for ensuring the welfare standards are met and maintained.

ESAP supported lobbying event

To get to this stage ESAP worked tirelessly, supporting two lobbying events to further emphasise to decision makers the relation between animal cruelty and criminality. As a result they established an influential contact within congress which allowed them to closely monitor progress and ensure that working animals were not removed from the animal welfare law. 

The subsequent standards are centred on the practical animal welfare framework the Five Freedoms, which states that animals should have freedom from hunger, pain and fear, have access to shelter and be able to express normal behaviour.

Community training in Guatemala

MAGA will establish an Animal Welfare Unit and then develop regulations for all the species considered under the new law. In order to enforce this law a National Commission for the Protection of Animals will be created to supervise the Welfare Unit and issue confiscations and penalty fines for the mistreatment of animals. These governing bodies are also able to promote educational programmes aimed at the public and private sectors to encourage compassion and respect for animals. This will enable citizens to identify and report acts of animal abuse to a dedicated unit designed to handle their concerns.

This animal welfare law represents a golden opportunity for these invisible workers to become more visible in society. Working horses, donkeys and mules  have enormous value for people’s livelihoods in Guatemala, and they should be recognised for that.

Mario Sapon, General Director of ESAP

Donkey in Guatemala

This law will provide a platform to make transformative changes for animals at a national level and most importantly finally recognise acts of cruelty and abuse towards them. Until now, these acts have gone unnoticed and unpunished. Brooke and ESAP will propose specific regulations aimed at working horses, donkeys and mules based on the Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) equine welfare standards.