BEIJING - In the wake of the death of 13 captive Siberian tigers in a northeast China zoo, legal experts have posted online a proposal for a "law against animal abuse" to elicit opinions.
The proposal, posted online Wednesday, would be revised after the experts considered the public's responses and then in April, it would be submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said Chang Jiwen with law institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who participated in the draft of the proposal.
A total of 13 Siberian tigers have died over a span of three months in Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo, including 11 which died of malnutrition and another two were shot dead while mauling a zoo worker in November 2009, said Liu Xiaoqiang, vice chief of the Shenyang Wild Animal Protection Station.
"What happened at the zoo was not an isolated case. There are multiple cases of hungry zoo animals mauling people. And our survey shows that many privately-owned zoos were not doing well financially," said Chang.
As for regulating the privately-owned zoos, there were legal loopholes which made enforcement impossible, said Liu.
The Law on Protection of Wildlife does not provide for any punishment for irresponsible zoo owners who abuse the animals.
In addition, the Property Law stipulates that zoo owners have the right to keep animals and animal protection authorities have no right to interfere, said Liu.
The proposal aims to fill the legal void, so to prevent future tiger tragedies and stop cruelty to animals.
Article 19 of the proposal forbids animal mistreatment, such as letting animals starve. If zoo animals are suffering from hunger or illness in cash-strapped zoos, zoo managers must turn to the animal protection body in China, for help. If necessary, the authorities should take over the zoo.
"If such a law were in place, the recent tiger tragedy may have been avoided," said Chang.
Not just the engendered species like the Siberian tiger, but also common animals can be protected if the soon to be submitted "law against animal abuse" comes into force.
Animal abuse is reported from time to time in China. On February 18, a man was reportedly driving a motorcycle while dragging a dog with a leash, leaving a trail of blood on the road in Fuzhou, capital city of east China's Fujian Province.
"We will also propose to China's lawmakers to include 'animal abuse' as an offence and stipulate penalties," said Chang.
The proposal suggests fining and detaining those who eat dog or cat meat illegally. A recent poll on Sina.com, a popular portal in China, shows that among the 140,007 respondents, 51.5 percent supported the suggestion, but 45.6 percent doubted it could be effectively implemented and three percent were undecided.
The experts also proposed to ban pets owners from abandoning their pets irresponsibly and stopping cruelty to animals used in scientific experiments.
Draft of the proposal began in October 2008, pooling wisdom of scholars from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Renmin University of China, and Griffith University of Australia, among others.
The Siberian tiger, an engendered species, is a subspecies of tiger which once ranged throughout western, central Asia and eastern Russia. It is estimated that the number of wild Siberian tigers is now between 350 and 450 worldwide.
China has around 20 wild Siberian tigers, among which 10 to 14 are in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and eight to 10 are in its neighboring Jilin Province.
China established a breeding base for the Siberian tigers in Heilongjiang in 1986 and the number of captive tigers has increased from eight to more than 800 currently.