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With animal welfare increasingly in the spotlight, attackers have nowhere to hide in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Partly because of the reach and power of social media, awareness of animal abuse issues has never been higher in Saudi Arabia, and calls have been made for governments to step up efforts to protect animals.

Videos and photographs posted on social media have highlighted examples of abuse such as abandoned animals by the side of the road and creatures that have been starved, beaten or burned. There are also concerns about the way animals are treated in facilities such as slaughterhouses.

In fact, there are already strict animal welfare rules and severe penalties for anyone found guilty of breaking them, including the possibility of jail time and heavy fines.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture warns that the penalty for a first offense is a fine of up to SR 50,000 ($ 13,000) and that this amount is doubled if there is has a second offense in the year.

If there is a third incident, the fine increases to SR 200,000 and, if so, the facility treating the animals can be closed for 90 days. In the event of a fourth case of abuse, a fine of SR 400,000 may be imposed and the establishment’s license may be revoked permanently. Prison sentences are also a possibility.

Lawyer Waleed bin Nayef told Arab News that the sanctions apply to anyone who causes suffering to animals, whether they put them in danger, are needlessly cruel when slaughtering or preparing for sacrifices , cause them stress or suffering during races, or do not take into account the age or health of the animals they work with.

Other offenses include forcing animals to act in a way that is not their nature, giving them illegal drugs or growth hormones, inhumanely catching or transporting them, not not treat them when they are sick or injured, abuse them sexually or get rid of them in an inhumane way.

“The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has provided a means through its website to report any abuse or torture and these reports are being treated seriously,” bin Nayef told Arab News. He added that a strong animal welfare system is enshrined in the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

In cases where abuse is suspected, he said, whether it was filmed, discovered during a surprise inspection or after investigating an animal’s death, the ministry decides whether to return. the suspect before the criminal court, which will investigate and decide on an appropriate sanction if necessary.

For a number of reasons, investigations can be difficult. For example, it may be difficult to trace the origin of videos or images showing abuse, and they may have been tampered with. However, Saudi authorities have successfully used cybercrime units to identify and catch attackers.

Mohammed Al-Hatershi, general manager of slaughterhouses in the general administration of the Mecca region, told Arab News that while it is better to work on raising awareness of animal abuse issues in order to prevent them from becoming produce first, strict laws and penalties are also needed as authorities are responsible for ensuring animals are cared for.

“Sharia law is clear on animal care because it says we are responsible for our herd and facilities must take these rules seriously,” he added.

Social worker Mona Al-Thiyabi told Arab News that animal abuse can be an indicator of low psychological stability in an individual and may be linked to certain mental disorders.

“It could also be an indicator of low stability in the family, as the presence of hostile behavior by a person against an animal can come from the family,” she said.

Psychological, verbal or physical violence in the home between spouses, for example, causes psychological suffering and pressure, which can cause a person to treat animals in the same way, she added.

“On the other hand, violence in all its forms against children can provoke psychological repression in them, which can lead to the practice of hostile behavior towards animals,” Al-Thiyabi said.

People who are cruel and violent towards animals sometimes evolve into violence against humans, she added.

The Gus Hope Shelter is a non-profit organization that runs a cat shelter and saves stray animals.

“As a community, we need to be more responsible towards animals,” owner Um Asma told Arab News. “Everyone needs to sterilize and sterilize their pets and stop supporting pet stores that sell animals. “

“The laws are good, but they need to be implemented more. Some pet stores treat animals as a product rather than a soul and they should be stopped. “

The Kingdom’s Ehsan platform, a national charity site, also contributes to animal welfare by highlighting the need for donations.

One of the campaigns on the platform, for example, states: “Many rescued animals suffer from their inability to continue living on their own, so they need care and attention and a supply of food and equipment. water. With your donation, you help feed them. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: In every wet liver there is a reward.

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