Tajik legislation punishes cruelty to animals too leniently, experts say. Activists are trying to help cats and dogs even in the most distant districts of the country, but this does not solve the systemic problem.
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In ten years, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan considered 550 administrative violations on the cruelty to animals. Animal rights activists argue that these numbers do not reflect the real situation and propose to toughen the responsibility for cruelty to animals and to introduce a separate article into the country’s Criminal Code.
Imperfection of the Legislation
In Tajikistan, only Article 277 of the Code of Administrative Offenses regulates the cases of cruelty to animals. It states that cruelty to animals and birds, resulting in their death or injury, can result in a warning or a fine of three to five indicators for calculations for an individual. Thus, the maximum punishment for torture and cruelty to animals is five indicators for calculations, which is 290 somoni today (about $28).
According to the lawyer and head of the Khimoya legal company Navruz Odinaev, such a punishment is not significant, and the norm itself is contradictory.
“It turns out that if the abuser tortures and kills several dogs, he would pay just 290 somoni (about $28). These actions can be repeated again, since the article consists of only one part and the punishment for repeated violation is not increased, and there is no criminal liability at all,” he said.
The expert believes that this article should have been revised and transferred to the Criminal Code long ago. As an example, he suggests considering a similar Article in the Criminal Code of Russia, which defines the cruelty to animals and punishment for it in more details.
“The Article 245 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Cruelty to animals with the purpose of causing pain and/or suffering, conducted with malicious or mercenary motives, resulting in their death or injury” provides maximum punishment of 5 years of imprisonment,” Odinaev noted.
A Mutilated Cat That Did not Lose Faith in People
An injured cat with a difficult fate was found on the Tajik-Uzbek border, near the border checkpoint. Nobody knows what happened to it. The cat does not have one ear, and a half of the second. The tail is ripped out, the front paw is chopped off, half of the cheek and half of the nose seem to be cut off and because of this, part of the teeth are outside.
After the cat was found in such a situation, one caring women took it and brought to the city of Buston in Sughd region for foster care. Later, the team of the Vecherka media company transported the animal to Dushanbe.
Zulfiya Golubeva, the animal rights activist and the editor of the Vecherka newspaper met the cat for the first time then. In Dushanbe, the pet found guardians: it was taken to the family, which cared and loved it. This family is currently having housing difficulties, and Lapa (as the cat was called) is living at Zulfiya’s house for several months now.
“You know, Lapa is absolutely healthy and energetic cat. The absence of a paw, bare skin on the cheek and the absence of half of the nose does not bother him. Lapa runs around the apartment, plays, loves affection and teases two of my other cats,” says Golubeva.
Zulfiya says that pity for Lapa arises only when you see his injuries for the first time. After you get to know Lapa better, you fall in love and start treating him like an ordinary cat.
“Sometimes, I think about the pain he felt when he was tortured. These thoughts make me uncomfortable. He managed to survive and still loves people,” says Golubeva.
People Saving Animal’s Lives
On social networks, there are more and more initiatives by the animal rights activists who do not want to tolerate the cruelty and do not stand aside. Several associations are actively working throughout the country, and by their own efforts save the animals’ lives in difficult situations.
Nilyufar Usmanova from Dushanbe actively helps animals for several months now. She joined a group of active animal rights activists who created a temporary animal shelter. Here, the dogs rescued from murder live. They were found in critical condition and cured.
“We try to find a home for each rescued dog as soon as possible so that there is room for others. Some were sent to families abroad, several of them now live in Belgium. At the moment, there are more than 70 dogs,” Usmanova said.
Every day, these young women face human cruelty towards cats and dogs.
“A dog named Naida lived here, I found her. She constantly whined, cried, and then, the house residents decided to call the service for trapping animals. I was informed that she would be shot at night. From lunch to 10 PM, I was looking for her around the district to take her to the shelter. I was told that one man beat her in that morning and she ran away. I was sure that she would return at night, and when she would return, they would shoot her. Fortunately, I found her. We took her to the shelter, and the examination by the veterinarian showed that she was raped. We treated her for a long time, she had a surgery, but Naida did not make it,” Nilyufar says.
Nilyufar believes that many people are aware of the scale of the problem in Dushanbe. However, for some reason, more and more children beat cats, throw stones at dogs, beat them with sticks, throw them out on the road, and then watch how a car hits the animal.
“Everything comes from the family, it is necessary that their parents explain to children that animals cannot be beaten. It is important to broadcast educational programs on TV, show more public service announcements about animals,” she notes.
Even a few years ago, the cases of cruelty to animals did not receive such attention. Today, the social media animal rights campaigns are growing in strength across the country.
In Sughd region, there is a movement called “The Right to Life”. Its participants help homeless animals every day.
Recently, volunteers helped a dog, named Sheila, who was found in a critical condition on the street. The animal had advanced stage of dermatitis; it constantly itches, forming the bleeding wounds. Participants of the movement invited a veterinarian and began curing the animal.
This April, in the GBAO center, the city of Khorog, a volunteer public organisation for helping homeless animals “Give a paw” was created. The organisers witnessed the cruelty to the dog and decided not to wait for help from anyone and start helping the animals on their own.
The manager of the movement Amiramza Dorobov believes that it is necessary to open a shelter for homeless animals in the city.
“There are many homeless dogs and cats in Khorog. Some of them are in critical health condition. Each of us loves animals. That is why we decided not to stand aside. I want others to understand that animals, like us, feel pain, suffering and love. Now, it is difficult for us. There is no shelter in our city where we could place homeless animals, there is no money for caring for them, and there are no sponsors and support from the state. Nevertheless, we believe that helping animals is our duty. Every week we get together, buy sausages and bread, and feed the animals. Nothing is impossible, the most important is to start,” says Amiramza.
Public Activism for Animals Protection Increases
Many animal activists are taking an active position on social networks for combating cruelty to animals, especially on the Tajik segment of Facebook.
Employees of the Vecherka media company already implemented several projects to protect homeless animals. They regularly report about the work of private animal shelters, share stories of the injured animals. In addition to agitation and promotion of humanity, fostering good attitude towards animals in people, the initiative group is trying to convey to the government of the country the need to change the legal framework. This spring, the media company prepared and collected signatures for a petition to the competent authorities.
Over 200 people signed the petition. Simultaneously, the media company plans to create a working group of representatives of government agencies, animal rights activists and lawyers who would begin the work on amendments to the legislative framework. Currently, the initiative group from Vecherka is discussing the introduction of legislative changes in the field of regulation of the domestic animals treatment in Tajikistan with the Members of the Parliament.
Umed Ulugov, professor of the environmental law at the Department of Business Law of the Russian-Tajik (Slavonic) University, is a member of this initiative group. He believes that for a start, legislation should divide the pets into groups: the first should include animals that we use for food, and the second should include the so-called companion animals.
“There is no such differentiation in the Tajik legislation. There is a similar division in the law “On Veterinary Medicine”, but it does not provide detailed regulation, because this law is related to the provision of assistance to animals. We do not have a law that would fully regulate human activities in relation to domestic animals,” Ulugov said.