Hungary to establish new law on animal protection


A proposal for an amendment to the law “amending certain criminal laws necessary for the protection of animals” was submitted by Péter Ovádi, the ministerial commissioner in charge of animal protection. Both the Animal Welfare Act and the Criminal Code are affected by the proposal, the Noé Animal Shelter Foundation wrote in a Facebook post.

If the new law is passed, it will allow for the first time strong criminal prosecutions against illegal breeders, and it will also provide for more severe penalties and new cases of qualification for criminal courts for crimes against animals. Specific repeat offenders and cases of animal poisoning would be severely punished, and even the preparation of the latter would be punishable. Unlike the current maximum of three years, a prison sentence of up to five years could be imposed under certain conditions, which is considered very high in Europe. Not only the organizers of animal fights would be punished, but also the participants. The proposal also regulates the legal conditions prohibiting criminals from keeping animals and placing animals in criminal proceedings, making them more viable and efficient for animals, Péter Ovádi wrote in another Facebook post. The proposal was made by Ovádi and the leader of the Fidesz parliamentary group, Máté Kocsis.

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In 2016, a major event took place in Budapest against cruelty to animals. This was triggered by the son of the deputy mayor of Detek murder a puppy cruelty, amid laughter, then posting a video of the act on social media. The Orbán administration then promised to take action against animal abusers. In 2017, they wanted to change the animal welfare law, but animal welfare organizations strongly opposed the bill, which many saw as a step backwards. Among other things, it was critical by the Hungarian Animal Welfare Organization (MÁOSZ) for not being specific about basic definitions such as stray animals versus abandoned animals, livestock farm versus animal shelters, animal cruelty versus animal abuse, adoption versus abandonment for adoption. Animals on abandoned livestock farms would still have been excluded from animal welfare law if the draft had passed. The government ultimately did not pass the new law and no changes were made. In 2020, the Democratic Coalition (DK) also proposed tougher sentences for animal abusers, but ruling forces did not back it.

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Unlike the previous proposal, animal welfare organizations have already been involved in the drafting of the current bill. They now seem satisfied with the new initiative. In addition to the Noah Animal Shelter Foundation, for example, the Ant Community (Hangya Közösség), which is an umbrella organization for animal welfare that supports the work of rural shelters and animal welfare organizations, has also job on the new law on their Facebook page. Both organizations expressed their gratitude, with the Ant community adding that “As soon as the amendments are voted on, we promise to blow the champagne off!”

The new bill can be read here. If approved by Parliament, most of the amendments will enter into force on January 1, 2022.

Featured Image: A dog and pigs at Noah Animal Shelter in Budapest, February 7, 2021. Photo by Zsolt Szigetváry / MTI


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