Legislators in Yucatán have passed a new law dishing out severe punishments to people guilty of animal abuse.
Anyone found guilty of severe animal cruelty resulting in death is liable to serve prison terms of up to three years and pay fines, which theoretically could be as high as 1,790,000 pesos, or the equivalent of roughly US$90,000.
The new law, which came into effect this month, also gives police new powers to investigate and pursue such cases.
But activists say that they fear this new legislation won’t amount to much. Authorities have historically been extremely slow to act when the victims of torture and murder are animals.
Over the past eight years, 184 complaints have been issued against alleged animal abusers, but only a few have made it to court.
“We have documented many cases of severe animal cruelty, but when we hand this evidence over to the authorities nothing happens,” says Silvia Cortes, of Evolucion Animal, a local animal welfare organization based in Mérida.
Of all reported cases of animal abuse in Mexico, 64% of the victims have been dogs, 18% cats and the remaining 18% are farm animals, according to statistics presented by Mexico’s office of environmental and natural resources (SEMARNAT).
Although virtually all complaints have historically had to do with pets or farm animals, certain wild species such as possums and iguanas are common targets for abuse in Yucatán, even though they are completely harmless.
It is not clear if or how the new law would apply to animals raised for slaughter in farms, such as pigs and chickens.
“Animals kept in farms suffer tremendously as the result of industrial systems which make it practically impossible to maintain even the most basic levels of welfare,” says Fabiola Balmori, legal counsel for the animal rights group, Mercy for Animals.