Little animals are thrown into trash cans, left in the middle of fields or forests in the lurch, maimed and even cynically and heartlessly murdered. The legislation which would have to protect animals from the cruelty of a two-legged animal doesn’t work in Ukraine. Animal defenders and volunteers try to protect the four-legged creatures. These September days, large-scale actions aimed at protecting animals’ rights are held in many cities of Ukraine for the third time. But the question of whether they will be heard in the offices their implementation depends on and where decisions are made remains open.

The all-Ukrainian march for animal rights “Protection of the Weak Is the Work of the Strong” will sweep across Ukraine – last year the action was held in twenty cities, this year it will also cover the capital, all regional centres and other major towns.

We need a system of control and punishment

According to the coordinator of the action – the public organization UAnimals – in 2018, only in Kyiv it gathered more than 6 thousand people. And now, as seen on the Facebook page of the march itself, almost 4 thousand people plan to take part in it for sure, while more than 10 thousand people have not yet decided but are interested in the topic of animal rights protection. And these numbers are constantly increasing.

In Kyiv, the march for animal rights which will take place at the end of the “week of humanity” with lectures, training and “round tables”, will begin at noon in the Shevchenko Park and proceed, like in other places, through the main streets of the city on September 15. In each of the cities, activists, animal rights protectors, other public organizations, caring people who are hurt when animals suffer will join the organizers – the public organization UAnimals. For example, the public initiative Social Development Club and the fund Right to Life will help in Dnipro.

More than a dozen march requirements are common for all cities. The organizers want to protect animals from abuse in circus, dolphinariums, fur farms, animal testing of cosmetics, perfumery, medicines and hunting slaughter stations. They have also made the demand to ban the exploitation of animals for begging and photographic services, to stop cynical programs of mass murder of stray animals in our cities, to finally tame dog hunters who are in a great condition now if you judge by the behaviour of the “chief dog hunter of Ukraine” Sviatohora. And they also stress that the creation of zoo police and the introduction of the efficient system of control and penalties for cruelty to animals in Ukraine is long overdue.

About Lucky, Arbat, Romashka and their brothers in misfortune

…I still cannot forget how Zhuk – a stray, or rather a “district” dog of one of the housing estates of the capital – was deliberately killed (hit by a car at high speed). All the inhabitants of the nearby houses loved a big, coal-black, trained gorgeous dog who was unlucky to be born in the garages – Zhuk never hurt anyone. As well as the local pack of stray dogs he was the leader of. However, he had a habit that led to trouble – he liked to chase cars and bark at them. So, some driver put a sad full stop in the dog’s life under the cover of night.

Now such stories of even greater cruelty are easy to find – people write about them on the Internet, especially in social networks. Here are just a few examples. So, in the Lviv region a story of the dog Lucky is famous. School staff was trying to kill a dog that was loved by all the students who feed him sandwiches given by their parents – one of the parents wrote a story told by his son in the social network: he told that the dog was severely beaten and thrown into the river to drown. And there were several attempts to kill Lucky but he was strong enough to survive. And all this happened in front of pupils until their parents raised a fuss.

And in July of this year, as reported on Facebook again, in the Transcarpathian town of Vynohradiv, “a drunk man with a bull terrier without a muzzle and a leash threatened to destroy a defenceless cat in front of witnesses, including children. And then he made his threats come true, shouting that he was God here.”

In August, Odesa “distinguished” itself – Tetiana Novytska wrote a story of the dog Arbat in the Facebook group Animal Protection, “Odesa, SOS! The kindest dog with sick paws has been living in our yard for 13 years. His owner, a second-degree disabled woman, let it lie in the yard with the approval of the inhabitants, Arbat became a relic of the yard. But a teacher of the Russian language and literature of one of the schools who wildly dislikes animals lives in her stairwell. She first threatened, and then took actions: a veterinarian barely saved Arbat from poisoning…”

Kyiv, Raiduzhnyi housing development. A dog named Romashka. Last year in August, a 40-year-old man stopped his car at 9 am, pulled out a claw hammer and started beating this dog on her head. A couple was walking nearby, they saw the incident and intervened. The knacker left the dog, and started to beat the witness with a hammer and even hit him twice. Romashka was saved but she was in a very serious condition. Vets and volunteers were fighting for her life for months. “When we called the police,” Oksana Heorhiieva from Kyiv says, “we were told that ‘we accept the call but we do not guarantee that we’ll come because it’s a dog’. In the evening of the same day when we wanted to submit the application to the regional police department to open criminal proceeding, nobody wanted to accept it…”

Kyiv again, Lisovyi housing development, this time children’s cruelty strikes – a 6-year-old girl screwed off (!) heads of fifty kittens. And none of the neighbours knows what to do with her. In Lviv, a middle-aged man tied a dog to the car and hit the gas. Even where a pensioner kicked his neighbour’s puppy on the sly. In Dnipropetrovsk oblast, a similar cruel bastard tied the dog to the car. Another one, in Kyiv, killed his of his 15-year-old dog, that had got little time left, with a crowbar. In Izmail of the Odesa region, a clearly sick-headed monster cut off the ear of a stray dog (because he dared to bark at him and his dog) and hit the animal with a knife.

“These socially dangerous people walk among us, and it is a problem that has no boundaries,” Oksana Heorhiieva continues. Knackers pitchfork animals, cut off/chop off their heads/legs/tails, skin them alive, throw them into the sewer, put them in the microwave, the washing machines, put firecrackers in their mouths – that’s why a dog names Kvitochka was left completely without the lower jaw and with a torn mouth. Some animals are even raped.

Why are these problems hushed up in Ukraine and nobody pays attention to them? Why Oleksii Sviatohor who killed more than 3 thousand dogs, turned into a showman who speaks about his murders with shining eyes?! And we know that there have already been 24 sessions: thousands of people come with posters, the whole Ukraine, the whole world is watching this trial, and nothing changes.”

There is legislation but there is no protection 

There are really few trials that end up with punishing people who bullied or even killed animals. Recently, Sievierodonetsk town court of Luhansk oblast sentenced a 37-year-old offender (2 years of restriction of freedom), who first took a mongrel dog home, it lived there for a few days, and then the man cruelly beat the animal and threw it out of the window of his apartment on the second floor, and the dog “received injuries incompatible with life”. Last year, animal rights activists note, the first case of the real punishment of a knacker was recorded – Dolyna district court of Ivano-Frankivsk oblast found a 24-year-old man guilty of killing dogs and punished him with 5-year imprisonment. And most recently, there was a process in Odesa – and the court decided to arrest the man who “entertained himself” by torturing homeless kittens for 2 months.

“Now in the legislation, we have the article 299 of the Criminal Code, which provides for a sentence for cruelty to animals – from 3 to 8 years,” the animal rights activist and a lawyer Yuliia Kadantseva explains. “The parliament adopted strengthening of criminal liability for cruelty to animals in August 2 years ago (the bill No 5119-1 “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine (on the introduction of humane treatment of animals)” is meant, which provided for appropriate changes in the Criminal Code – ed.). And before that, peaceful rallies in 19 cities of Ukraine were held to support this bill. However, all state structures involved in its implementation, namely the police, the prosecutor’s office, the courts, are ineffective.”

Therefore, we cannot say that there is a completely white spot in our legislation on animals protection. There is the article which provides for the punishment for cruelty to animals in the Criminal Code. For those who don’t know, this article is both about domestic and wild and farm animals. And abuse is divided into two types: torture of animals by men and baiting animals against each other.

For assault and animal abuse, there is a penalty of 3 400 to 5 100 UAH with confiscation of the animal if its life is threatened. If torture is repeated or carried out by a group of people, the penalty ranges from 5 100 to 8 500 UAH. Raping animals is punished by 3 400 – 8 500 UAH fine.

If the actions of a person entail the death of an animal, the culprit may be thrown into jail for a period of from six months to 3 years. Killing an animal in the presence of a child entails the restriction of freedom for a period of 3-5 years. And if the monster does it with special cruelty or together with other similar malefactors or tortures many animals, the punishment of up to 8 years of imprisonment is provided.

Ombudsman for dogs and cats

However, as noted by volunteers and animal rights activists, the relevant articles in the Criminal Сode do not guarantee that the animals are protected. “Many animals suffer from abuse and, unfortunately, we do not have positive changes and results even after the relevant law was adopted 2 years ago,” the Kyiv volunteer and animal rights activist Nataliia Kysliuk says. “Although this issue is given great attention in the world. Thus, the very need to protect animals from abuse was recognized at the international level in the last century. The result of this recognition is the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals adopted in 1987. The basic principles of treatment of pets include the prohibition of causing suffering to animals and leaving them voluntarily.”

This convention, the volunteer notes, provides for the protection of animal health, protection from exploitation in training and commercial breeding. At the same time, animal cruelty is a separate type of crime for which criminal liability is provided. So it is written in the laws of Italy, Algeria, Georgia, Spain, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sudan, Thailand, Finland, France and Croatia. And now in our laws as well. But the difference is that the laws are actually observed abroad, and in Ukraine, people are looking for loopholes, for ways to get around them, or just do not count them at all. For example, in the USA there is a database of potential murderers – the so-called category A group. This category includes serious crimes, primarily murder and arson. And since 2016, people who kill animals started to be included into this database.

“The main problem is that we have still not implemented the European Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals, which was ratified in 2013,” the head of the public organisation Eco-Logic, a zoodefender Inna Stanishevska, believes. “The implementation of this convention would solve a lot of issues. First, the issue of animal rights and not just their protection from abuse could be raised in a full voice. Because that basic law on the protection of animals which Ukraine has is declarative and unbalanced. This regulation does not contain any rules for keeping pet animals, nor a list of specific owners’ responsibilities, including mandatory identification, which is very important. There are questions about registration in the Unified State Register. Therefore, it is impossible to find negligent owners and bring them to justice.”

That is why, according to the public organization Eco-Logic, the problem cannot be turned a blind eye to any more. “I want to appeal to the new government,” the animal rights activist says, “with a request to create the position of the commissioner for animal rights under the Cabinet of Ministers on a voluntary basis. So that we can somehow get closer to the European values that we are talking about at all levels. We are ready to help. In fact, it is very simple – we need to change the legislation and make the activities of all structures that are responsible for solving the problem transparent. Desire is the main thing.”

Do we need an ombudsman who will deal with animal rights? The question is, shall we say, debatable. It is more important to understand why animals are abused in Ukraine. The answer can be found in the following story. In March of this year, the man in Kryvyi Rih pitchforked a homeless dog and threw it into the fire in front of the neighbours. If it had not been for the witnesses of this crime, the poor animal would have been burned alive. This “creative protector” from animals was… a police major Oleksandr Rudenko. Of course, people did not leave this atrocity without publicity. However, the culprit is still not punished. And the service check which was appointed at the place of his work didn’t see signs of a disciplinary offence in the actions of their employee. The pre-trial investigation is carried out by the State Bureau of Investigation, and animal rights activists say it is blocked at the level of the Dnipropetrovsk region prosecutor’s office. Aren’t those double standards?

Therefore, until society realizes that animals – dogs, cats, other ones – also have their rights, and a person can be severely punished for their violation, no legislation will help us, no matter how correct and complete it is. And the inevitability of punishment with our mentality is further than we could imagine…

Text by Larysa Vyshynska

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