Charlie - A Legal Perspective

Jan 11 2019. view 327

In the presence of such heinous acts, more and more people are vehemently calling for the Animal Welfare Bill which received Cabinet approval in 2016 to be enacted in law. We spoke to 

Lawyer and Animal Rights Activist, Lalani Perera, on what the current legal status of the Bill isnd the effect its enactment would have.


“The recent incident where a dog was set on fire alive, once again demonstrates the urgent need to enact the long overdue Animal Welfare Bill which the Law Commission submitted to the then President in 2006.  The Bill once enacted will replace the nation’s archaic Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907, where the fine for animal cruelty is still a mere Rs.100/-.  With no progress for over 03 years, Ven.  Athureliye Rathana Thero, M.P.  presented the Bill in Parliament in 2010 as a Private Member’s Bill,  but it lapsed when Parliament was dissolved that year. However, through a case filed in the Court of Appeal in 2010,  eighteen activists succeeded in drawing the government’s attention to this Bill. But it’s progress was continuously hampered  by groups with vested interests, especially the meat industry, where  food animals including cattle and poultry are bludgeoned to death, as Sri Lanka has no humane slaughter laws, and where stray dogs continue to be seized and destroyed or abandoned  despite on-going sterilization programmes which are the  humane option for dog population control.  With issues resolved at meetings with the Attorney General ’s department in 2014  and the then Presidential Secretary in 2015, the Bill was revised and submitted to Cabinet on 18th November 2015 by the then  Rural Economy Minister.  It received Cabinet approval on 13th January 2016.

 But, the meat industry and some veterinarians continued to make representations regarding the slaughter of food animals,  poultry transport, animals used for experiments, etc., resulting in the Ministry amending the Bill to exclude the vast majority of animals, including food animals from the  Bill.  The petitioners in the court case strongly objected to this move which will make a mockery of the Bill and through this case we are aware that in late 2017, the Ministry had sought the Attorney General’s advice to resolve the matter. That is the current status of the Bill.


With horrendous violence against animals escalating,  the government must give priority to the Animal Welfare Bill which will be an effective deterrent to the commission of such heinous crime. 

But, those who think that the Animal Welfare Bill is the panacea for animal cruelty, had better think twice, for unless the members of the National Animal Welfare Authority that will be appointed once the Bill is enacted are independent and competent, the law will remain confined to paper and the Authority will become yet another burden on the State.”


“New laws against animal cruelty must be enacted fast. Many domestic animals have virtually no rights as they are still governed by the Animal Welfare Ordinance from 1907. Perpetrators of horrific cruelty get away regularly without any consequences for the crime committed.This is one horrific incident but there are many we see each day in the work we do.

The Animal Welfare Bill must be approved fast in parliament. It’s been almost three years since it was passed by the cabinet. It is a disgrace that in a country like Sri Lanka that is so desperate to be considered a progressive country and is working in many ways to be identified as one, does not consider animal rights and animal welfare as important, especially when we are a country whose roots are based on compassion and where Sri Lanka was declared a land of no fear for all sentient beings in Mihintale onPoson day. There i
s huge global change in favor of improved animal welfare and to end animal cruelty.” 


– Otara Gunawardena (Animal Rights Activist and Founder/CEO of Embark) 

“My question is why are these politicians or lawmakers not concerned about animal rights? Maybe because these poor creatures have no right to vote...

This country is going from bad to worse in a moral sense. The government needs to keep in mind that the world is watching. There is no way this country will ever progress unless the government takes a stand on moral education being taught in schools from grade one onwards. This incident is an ugly mark on every citizen, government and all the religious leaders as well”

- Iraki KodituwakkuWijethilake (Founder - Ray of Hope Sri Lanka)

“We are shocked and distressed at the horrific suffering endured by Charlie. The AWPAworks hard to alleviate the suffering of our beloved Sri Lankan street dogs through: shelters, sterilization and rescues and encounter numerous cases of cruelty – 2 outstanding cases are of Peter (who had petrol thrown on him and was badly burnt)and Java (who was tied to the Wellawate Railway sign and whose neck was torn and teemed with maggots due to the chain around his neck). No dog should be kept in a kennel, especially a good-natured breed like Labradors. We hope these eventsdemonstrates the need to expedite the enactment ofthe Animal Welfare Bill”

-  Shioana Weerasekera (Animal Welfare and Protection Association)


“The increasing animal abuse we see today in Sri Lanka reflects a need to address far more deeper social, religious and political concerns and turmoil than can be addressed by just creating laws.  Into this milieu we also need to add the issue of wide spread wildlife poaching that has become epidemic throughout the entire length and breadth of the country.  Keep in mind there are already laws in place against poaching.  But does that prevent poaching? The same applies to animal abuse as well – having a law cannot stop it.  People from every aspect of life and society need to have in them empathy for other beings and this come from a life time of getting motivated from the actions of our peers, leaders, elders, contemporaries and colleagues.  
Infrequent incidences of animal abuse generally can be traced to emotional instability in individuals as a result of their childhood experiences, upbringing or domestic situation where parental abuse and violence are considered to be major contributing factors.  When animal abuse becomes a national issue then the genesis for it is not in the breakdown of the domestic environment but the breakdown of the entire sociopolitical and religious system of the country. And this is exactly what we see today at all levels of society, in the political hierarchy, and in our religious institutions.   

– Ravi Corea (Founder and President-  Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society)


“I hope laws against animal cruelty are legalized within this month. It's a matter of passing the new Animal Welfare bill in Parliament which can be done at the next Parliament date? What are we waiting for? For more animals to be tortured? For more Pet shops to display pets for sale in the most inhuman conditions? Are people aware that pedigree pups not sold after their 8 months are killed as it's too expensive and not feasible to keep and maintain them? For breeders to keep stealing our beloved pets and continue their breeding practices where the poor animals lead the most horrendous and miserable lives? Do I need to go on? 

As a Nation that has many religions where all of them preach of love, kindness and compassion, isn't it time to walk the talk?” 

-Neelika Tillekeratne

“The government must run awareness programmes and schools must incorporate animal care and welfare into their syllabus.There are also many changes that Sri Lanka needs -- animal-friendly parks and regulations to allow pets in apartments and houses. Some foreign cities, for example, have made it illegal to ban animals in apartment blocks. Everyone does not have to be an animal lover. However, antagonizing animals should never be tolerated. If stray animals dirty your surroundings, killing, poisoning, hitting, or burning them is not the solution.”

- Ashvi Thiyagaratnam

“In a day and age when most progressive countries are creating laws to protect the welfare of animals it is a pity to see one of the world's so-called Buddhist nations treat it's domestic animals so poorly. It's time to change this sad fact and I hope this government is brave enough to do it. We need to educate the public on how to treat animals and pets and enforce laws to protect against abuses like this.”

- Sidanthi Siriwardene



Panchali Illankoon

Law undergrad and occasional Aunty. Foodie, travel enthusiast and full time dog mom.


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