Albania activists petition Parliament demanding punishment for animal cruelty

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 7, 2017 16:12

Albania activists petition Parliament demanding punishment for animal cruelty

Story Highlights

  • "Today we undertook an important step in our fight for animal welfare in Albania," says the Animal Rescue Albania organization

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TIRANA, Nov. 7 - Animal rights activists have submitted more than 37,000 signatures in a petition addressed to MPs seeking to make animal cruelty punishable by fines and even imprisonment by amending the country's Criminal Code.

The initiative came following an early October 2017 shocking video that went viral showing an Albanian teenager axing to death his dog for apparent wrongdoing, triggering public outcry.

Deprived of keeping pets under communism, more and more Albanians have been keeping dogs, cats, birds and fish as pets in the past 25 years of the country’s transition. Several animal rights organizations also operate in the country, helping with abandoned animals and mediating adoptions.

An initiative of the Animal Rescue Albania watchdog, organizers managed to collect only in few weeks almost double the number of 20,000 signatures needed to submit petitions to Parliament on legal initiatives.

"Today we undertook an important step in our fight for animal welfare in Albania," the Animal Rescue Albania organization said in a statement.

Petitioners signed to make punishable animal killing, ill-treatment and physical and psychological abuse, animal abandonment as well as their use for experimental purposes. Signatories to the petition also demanded punishment for animal fighting, the use of pets' fur, skin and feathers, especially for animals in danger of extinction, often kept in captivity in Albania, as well trophy hunting.

"We think that the decency of treating animals represents the decency of treating humans. The way we treat animals today shows how we will treat humans tomorrow. If we treat animals badly today, tomorrow we will also treat humans badly and if we treat animals well today, we will also treat humans well," Jonel Kristo, an animal rights activist has said.

While the draft law that the petitioners are proposing has not been made public yet, activists say it envisages fines and up to two years of imprisonment for animal cruelty.

A similar initiative was submitted to Parliament last October by MP Saimir Tahiri, Albania’s former Socialist Interior Minister, who is recently being probed over alleged ties to a gang trafficking drugs to Italy.

In some legal changes to the country’s Criminal Code, Tahiri also proposed changes to the current unpunished animal abuse, in addition to some changes on the narcotics, road safety laws.

The former Interior Minister who was expelled from the Socialist Party following a late October prosecutors’ probe, proposed heavy fines of up to 1 million lek (€7,415) and imprisonment of up to three years for animal cruelty.

The proposed changes to the Criminal Code need a qualified majority of 84 votes, three-fifths of the current 140-seat Parliament in order to become effective.

In addition to almost everyday dog abuse, watchdogs say wild animal cruelty continues despite a hunting moratorium in place to protect Albania’s declining endangered fauna species.

Brown hares and bears being killed and advertised as trophies on social networks or endangered species such as the Balkan Lynx kept embalmed at restaurant bars in addition to caged bear cubs held in captivity are some of the cases the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) watchdog has identified on its dedicated portal serving as a hotline to report cases of abuse.

Last May, a three-month-old bear cub that had been trapped in mountain village outside Tirana was rescued from captivity after being illegally advertised for sale at a popular portal for €1,100.

Albania has banned hunting for the past couple of years and imposed a new five-year moratorium to put an end to uncontrolled and illegal hunting, which has decimated wildlife populations in the country over the last two and a half decades after the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 7, 2017 16:12