ISLAMABAD: In a bid to put an end to animal abuse and raise awareness among citizens, the prime minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit has planned a comprehensive law pertaining to animal welfare that aims to revisit centuries-old laws regarding animals besides “strict regulations” to discourage the import of exotic animals.

The head of the reforms unit, Salman Sufi, told Dawn that his department along with the climate change ministry was working on the law for the welfare of animals in Pakistan as the country had become a “horrible place” for these creatures.

He added that his department will propose a ban on the keeping of exotic animals as pets in the federal territory which will then be sent to the prime minister for approval.

In the first stage, the said law will be implemented in the federal capital and then provinces would be asked to replicate it as well,” Mr Sufi said and added that inputs from stakeholders were being sought to make the law more comprehensive.

Strict regulations regarding exotic animals, potential ban on the cards; children to be taught about animal welfare, stray animals at Islamabad schools

He lamented the obsolete laws regarding animal welfare in Pakistan and said the existing rules from the 1800s were outdated – there is only a Rs50 fine for anyone who mistreats animals.

‘Special course’

In a tweet, Salman Sufi also said the government was preparing a “special course” on animal welfare for schools in Islamabad which would teach them compassion and a humane approach toward animals. The course, which would be introduced in educational institutions by the end of October, had already been chalked out, he said.

It will primarily be included in a subject but we are still figuring out which subject and the chapters,” he said, revealing that the course will be introduced “according to the intensity of the curriculum” and will be taught to classes starting from the fifth grade in both private and government schools.

Mr Sufi elaborated that the course would have co-curricular sessions as well and added animal rights activists will visit schools and teach children about keeping pets. They will tell kids that pets cannot just be kept for fun, and make them realise that animals are a responsibility, he added.

“And with every class, the depth of the course will increase,” he added.

Apart from pets, Sufi went on, students will also be taught about stray animals. “They need to understand that they cannot throw stones at stray dogs… even Islam teaches us to respect every living being and emphasises how animals should be protected.”

Exotic animals

The law would also have strict regulations in terms of keeping exotic animals as pets.

“People will not be able to keep a lion in a one kanal house and will require a much bigger space for the wild animal to roam around,” said Salman Sufi. He, however, hinted that his department will try to get the practice banned.

“We will tell children that if they can afford these wild animals, it is absolutely unfair to keep them at home and that importing exotic animals is a big no,” Mr Sufi stressed, pointing out that the government was also in touch with international organisations and local activists regarding the projects.

Himalayan bear rescued

Separately, the Punjab Wildlife Department rescued a “female dancing bear” from the streets on a tip-off by locals.

“The Himalayan black bear, nearly two years old, and her handler were presented in the court in Gujar Khan before being handed over to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB). The handler was fined Rs10,000,” District Wildlife Officer Punjab Wildlife Department Rizwana Aziz told Dawn.

According to the official, the canines of the bear had been extracted but she was in good health.

Ms Aziz said her office had also been responding to reports of killing and injuring livestock by a leopard in parts of Kahuta. One goat was killed and two others were wounded as they grazed in the nearby forest, the official said, adding that there were no complaints by villagers in this regard.

However, the Punjab Wildlife Department had already initiated an awareness campaign pertinent to human-leopard conflict in potential rural areas of Kahuta tehsil, Rawalpindi.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2022

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