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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Animal Cruelty Law Said to Be Poorly Written

Legislation in the State Duma to bar cruelty to animals has provoked sharply differing opinions, with animal welfare workers saying it is overdue but critics calling it a poorly drafted bill that would prevent things like exterminating mice.

Animal cruelty is already illegal under Article 245 of the criminal code, which makes abuse of animals punishable by a fine of up to 200 times the minimum monthly wage or a year in prison. But current law doesn't define cruelty.

The new legislation would define cruelty and spell out forbidden practices. It would "forbid wrongful killing, beating, torturing and other actions causing fear, pain and making animals suffer." Euthanasia of sick or old animals, or those that have attacked people, would have to be carried out painlessly.

It would also ban dogfighting and bar the use of animals in medical and scientific experiments that cause the animal to suffer. It also contains a prohibition on veterinarians "performing surgery or other painful medical treatment of animals without anesthesia."

The bill, sponsored by Duma Deputy Gennady Berdov, was to come up on second reading Friday, but was postponed until next month.

Galina Leskova, a Duma staffer and one of the bill's drafters, said the experts working on the bill included biologists and veterinarians. She said the most important thing is to pass the bill now, and possibly correct any defects later.

But critics say that the bill is so poorly written that it would fail to achieve its noble goals. It rules that rodents can be put to death - but bars the use of poison, leaving it unclear how to carry out a legal extermination. Such restrictions are likely to result in conflicts with medical and research institutes.

Professor Alexei Severtsev, a biologist of Moscow State University, said many of the details of the bill have to be changed or at least clarified.

"The present version creates a problem out of minor things, like getting rid of rodents or making traditional ways of hunting impossible," he said.

Yulia Shvedova of the Moscow Movement for the Protection of Animals welcomed the new legislation but said it would not eliminate animal abuse.

"Some pet owners tease their animals because of their own ignorance and bad manners. Such people will always exist, and no law will help to stop this," Shvedova said.