A society’s attitude to animals reflects its level of culture and its moral health. 182 states, including the Republic of Belarus, are members of the World Organization for Animal Health, which is an intergovernmental organization whose mission is to promote humane attitude to animals in the whole world. One of the key measures of animal protection is adoption of certain legislation acts by each government, that regulate the issues of animal housing, their protection from cruel treatment and observance of their rights. Protecting animals from cruel treatment is an important issue of state politics in many civilized countries.

In the Republic of Belarus there is also such legislation act: it is the provision of article 137 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Belarus.  According to that article in relation to animals regulations on property are applied, which in fact deprives them of all their most basic rights. Another questionable point found in articles 231-232 of the Civil Code is that the right of ownership for a stray domestic animal can be acquired only after six months from the moment of its detention and failure to detect the owner. The literal interpretation of that provision is that it is prohibited to put healthy animals down after they got caught and brought to temporary detention facilities for at least during the period of six months. Nevertheless, such legal requirements are not observed by organizations that capture and detain animals, who are killed right after they are caught. We know about numerous facts of killing and torturing animals right after their capture by specialized services.

Also, the law stipulates: if a person maintaining an animal refuses to buy to own it, the animal should be transferred to communal property and utilized in the manner established by the local administration or self-administration organization. That is, a person keeping a domestic animal, should “buy” it from the state, or the animal might be killed.

Article 242 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Belarus stipulates that if an owner of an animal treats it in the manner contrary to the requirements of the law and norms of humane treatment accepted in the society, then the animal can be withdrawn from the owner by means of its purchase by the person filing the claim to the court. The price of purchase is determined by mutual agreement between the parties, in case of controversy – by the court. More precisely, the animal is not taken away from the animal tormentor, but it should be bought from the animal tormentor for the price, set by the animal tormentor! Due to this provision irresponsible owners often make money on animal trade to animal advocates.

According to article 15.45 of the Administrative Offences Code, cruel treatment of an animal, resulting in its death or severe injury, as well as torture of an animal should be punished by a fine from ten to thirty basic units or by an administrative arrest. Nevertheless, during all the history of the Republic of Belarus a punishment for cruel treatment and death has never exceeded 300 dollars.

In addition, we want to underline, that the foregoing acts stipulate mainly the provisions ensuring safety of the citizens and prevention of causing harm to them by the animals, as well as protection from infectious diseases carried by animals.

In the Republic of Belarus there are a lot of citizens who are not indifferent to homeless animals, such as our animal advocates: Liudmila Stepurenko, Volha Paulovich (Olga Pavlovich), Natallia Matveyeva, Tatsiana Buraya and Volha Mayorava (Olga Mayorova).  In August 2018 Volha Mayorava initiated the petition “Belarus is Not a Butchery”. However, after she had collected signatures for the petition in the street, she got detained under the charges of “unsanctioned picketing”.  In Orsha, while the volunteers were examining the animals and making a video about outrageous mistreatment of animals, lack of open-air cages, water and food in a “shelter”, they got detained and arrested. All the named above animal advocates were persecuted by the regime, some of them are now imprisoned on political charges.

While capturing the animals, Belarusian state services and the militia brutally kill them, punching their heads with a metal crowbar, poisoning or shooting them, often in front of shocked children. There is a mass of photo and video evidence of that happening. About 40 thousand animals are captured in Belarus each year, more than 75%, that is about 30 thousand, of them die because of indifferent attitude of the state to animal problem.  In temporary detention facilities animals are not fed, there is no water, open-air cages, they are watered and electrocuted, strangled and beaten. Angry and aggressive dogs are hallooed against each other to be torn apart.   Not a single person has ever been punished for all those atrocities. Animal rights defenders have more than once applied to the authorities with petitions, demanding animal protection, and Volha Mayorava’s petition “Belarus is Not a Butchery” is one of them. 9419 electronic signatures and 659 signatures on hard copies have been collected thanks to activists and the platform Zvarot.by. Nevertheless, the authorities took no action at all.

We are deeply convinced that the situation should be changed dramatically and international standards should be implemented into the national legislation. In order to achieve that aims we demand the following urgent measures to be taken:

  • Joining the European conventions on animal protection.
  • Modification of  Article 137 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Belarus, that in its first part determines the status of an animal exclusively as someone’s property.
  • Abandoning the existing suggested law draft “About Treatment of Animals”.
  • Drafting and passing the law “About Treatment of Animals” with due consideration to the opinion of animal advocates and to the standards of humane society.

To stop the endless flow of violence, the ICCI “Our House” has created a petition “In defence of the rights and freedoms of animals and animal defenders of Belarus.” Sign the petition — take a small step towards a new, free, fair Belarus!