Cuba to pass first law to protect animals from cruelty and abuse

Brown stray dog, animal news
Stray dog, photo: Daniele Franchi on Unsplash

Cuba will pass a law in November to protect animal rights. “Respect for animals, the need to avoid mistreatment, abuse, acts of cruelty and above all the realization that animals are sensitive beings that feel pain and pleasure,” Yisell Socorro, a ministry lawyer, said about the new law.

The streets in Cuba are full of dogs and cats in a poor state. The lucky ones are picked up by individuals or fed by animal welfare groups.

Grettel Montes de Oca from the animal welfare organization Cubanos En Defensa de los Animales (CeDA) had never owned a pet until she picked up a black cat in 2007. “Once you start saving them, you can never stop,” she told news agency AFP.

An animal rights law “is the dream of all animal defenders, especially in Cuba, where we’ve been fighting for 33 years for that”, De Oca said. “We are amongst the most backward countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s as if animals don’t exist in Cuba.”

Animal sacrifice
Santería is the most popular religion on the island. Animal sacrifice is part of the religion. Rams, goats, roosters, pigeons, hutias (a rodent), dogs and cats can all be sacrificed, Yank Benavente, a Santería priest, told AFP.

Benavente owns 30 doves and two dogs, but those he would never sacrifice. And the animals he does sacrifice, he treats well, he said. “I’m incapable of treating them badly, to leave then thirsty or hungry,” he said.

The possibility of giving up the practice is out of the question, though. “It’s part of culture, religion, I can’t see how the law can influence this.”

Cock and dog fights
Cock and dog fights are often organized at out of town locations. Two trained animals are forced to fight to the death. The battles are so savage and cruel that the winner usually also dies from his injuries.

Even though they still happen illegally, dog fights are officially banned in the country. That’s not the case for cockfighting, though. It’s an activity that is extremely anchored in Cuban culture.

The president of the national animal welfare committee, Maria Gloria Vidal, said cockfighting will remain legal “in very specific cases of associations or organizations, for a competition or an event”.

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