Animal lovers can now breathe a sigh of relief, following the passage of the CNMI Public Law 21-31, or the Animal Protection Act, which prohibits cruelty and theft of animals, and makes their cruel mistreatment, abandonment, and cruel neglect illegal.
Introduced by Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan), the law defines cruel mistreatment as knowingly torturing and inflicting unnecessary physical injury on an animal, or to kill in a manner that causes suffering to the animal; while cruel neglect is to knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly fail to provide an animal with its basic needs, including proper medical care.
“It will finally be illegal to torture domesticated animals, and officers will be able to intervene in cases where animals are tortured, abused, or neglected,” Propst said, in an interview with Saipan Tribune.
The law is a huge win for animal rights advocates and is finally passed a decade since the first animal protection bill was introduced in the CNMI.
“It took multiple tries in multiple legislatures, from former congressman Stanley McGinness Torres, who introduced it three times, to myself and co-sponsors of the bill, who also introduced it three times. I thank Speaker Blas Jonathan Tenorio Attao and my colleagues in the House, and Senate President Victor Hocog and colleagues in the Senate, for making history,” he added.
Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan), following the Animal Protection Act’s passage, said that “until this law, the CNMI was the last jurisdiction in the nation to have no animal protections, no ban on cruelty to animals, on the books.”
Public hearings were held on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, where the legislators heard from the community, businesses, and government departments and agencies, including all four mayors, as well as the Humane Society International, and Saipan Cares For Animals.
Violators will be faced with fines and penalties. First degree offenders, those who cause serious physical injury to the animal causing its death and torture, or who engage in dog fighting, or have prior conviction for cruelty to animals in the first or second degree will be fined at least $500 to $1,000, perform 500 hours of community service, or both.
Second degree offenders, those who cruelly mistreat or neglect, or knowingly or intentionally abandon an animal, will be fined not more than $500, or perform 250 hours of community service.
Anyone who steals someone’s pet may be punished by up to six month imprisonment, or a fine of up to $500 per pet, or both.
Also, under the law, conduct exempted from prosecution include accepted veterinary practice performed by veterinarians licensed to practice in the CNMI; and acts in defense of a person, or a person’s property from the reasonable threat of an attack by an animal;
Activities consistent with traditional customs or cultural practices, or an accepted farming or husbandry practice like slaughter for personal consumption and cockfighting are not going to be prosecuted.
Also exempted from prosecution under the Animal Protection Act are lawful hunting, fishing or trapping practice; lawful research or teaching; and accepted methods of control of rodents, pests or snakes by trapping or killing.