Approach to the Legal Status of Companion Animals in the Cape Verdean Legal System
Since the dawn of humanity, Man relates to the animals that surround him according to their needs and the era in which he lives. With the evolution of humanity, Man started to acquire dogs and cats with the objective of the animals fulfilling the functions of guarding and controlling pests, for this purpose, they were kept in the external areas of the owners’ homes.
In the case of dogs, they built a kennel for them or tied a rope around their necks, because cats – given their mundane nature – were usually loose, sometimes inside the house and sometimes outside.
When the animals got sick, they were treated by their owners, without the supervision of a veterinarian. If, for some reason, the animals began to disturb the family’s routine, the owner did not hesitate to leave them in a public place or simply abandon them on the city streets.
Unfortunately, nowadays, we continue to face numerous situations of cruelty against animals, from animals in chains, cages, abandoned animals exposed to the cold, rain or sun, homeless animals living on their own excrement, bad animals treated, sick animals without medical care, animals killed by shooting, hanging and poisoning.
Currently, many countries have specific legislation for the protection of animals, as well as their own legislation for the use of animals as guides and companions. For this purpose, above all, dogs are trained to guide people with visual impairments, to help with household chores or to be a companion.
In our legal system recently, the Cape Verdean Legislator, following the guidelines of Modern Criminal Law, introduced criminal provisions on the criminalization of animal mistreatment contained in articles 372.º – B and 372.º – C of the Penal Code under the “Mistreatment of companion animals and abandonment of companion animals”, in defense of essential values of a democratic and civilized community
In this way, the Legislator in article 372.º – D established the concept of companion animals for the purposes of the provisions of title VIII, under the heading “Crimes against companion animals”, see: “(…) any animal kept or intended to be kept by human beings, namely in their home, for their entertainment and company”.
Thus, it appears that this concept of companion animals fits all those animals that are effectively kept by man, in his home, for his entertainment and companionship, for example: dogs, cats, birds, dwarf rabbits, guinea pigs, and other rodents and aquarium fish. This protection excludes animals used for food or clothing or those used for profitable commercial shows, such as bullfights or circuses.
Further on, article 372.º – B, under the heading “Mistreatment of companion animals”, stipulates the typical conduct of the crime as well as the framework of the penalty “Whoever, without legitimate reason, inflicts pain, suffering or any other ill-treatment physical treatment of a pet is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to 120 days”.
Analyzing this article, it appears that the agent of crime can be anyone, including its owner. As there is no provision for the punishment of legal persons, as provided for in article 9 of the Penal Code, which excludes criminal imputation to zoophilic associations or societies or other legal persons whose commercial objective involves the creation and sale of animals, without prejudice to the liability individual titles of the respective bodies.
The crime consists of inflicting pain, suffering or other physical abuse on a companion animal without legitimate reasons. When the law clarifies legitimate reasons, it is understood that this concept includes, among others, the administration of an immediate and dignified death, in case of a weakened, sick or elderly animal, sterilization, the introduction of a mandatory electronic identification chip, the administration of drugs by injections, among others.
Note that the Legislator has aggravated the punishment when mistreatment of companion animals results in death, or deprivation of an important organ or limbs or serious and permanent impairment of the animal’s ability to move.
It was regulated under the terms of article 372.º C, under the heading “Abandonment of companion animals”, which is now transcribed “Whoever, having the duty to guard, supervise or assist a companion animal, abandons it, thereby putting endangering his food and the provision of care due to him, is punished with imprisonment for up to six months or a long term of up to 60 days.”
From the reading of the regulations, it can be seen that the duty of guarding, watching or assisting a pet is, in the first instance, the “owner”, and in the second instance, it is the person who, even if provisionally is responsible for the care of the animal as a trainer, a caretaker, or someone below the owner has entrusted the animal, to take care of him in his absence.
Thus, anyone who abandons the animal, putting its food at risk, or jeopardizing the provision of due care, namely, housing conditions (temperature conditions, ventilation, light), hygiene and health care, including breeding, will be punished for a crime of abandonment of animals.
The recent innovations of the Cape Verdean Penal Code – with regard to crimes against animals held by human beings for entertainment and company, with the criminalization of certain human behaviors that cause pain or physical suffering on pets and entertainment by the agent who practices them incurs , since May 14, 2021, in the crime of mistreatment of companion animals, thus guaranteeing criminal protection, for the first time directly, to this type of animals.
It should be noted that the criminal type under analysis may curiously be framed in two types of crime, that is, on the one hand, as a crime of a semi-public nature and, on the other hand, as a crime of a public nature. In this sense, when the victim of the crime is the owner of the pet, the crime will have a semi-public nature.
However, if the subject of the crime is the owner of the pet, the relevance of this legal norm is immediately linked to the criminal nature of the crime established, it follows from the contrary interpretation of article 376.º n.º 4 of the Penal Code, which we are dealing with a public crime. Thus, it is only necessary for the Public Prosecutor’s Office to be informed in order to have legitimacy to promote the criminal process, regardless of whether a complaint has been filed or not.
Finally, it is concluded that companion and entertainment animals for the purposes of the crime of legislative innovation can be considered as all animals that are Man’s daily partners and that society sees them as sentient beings and worthy of treatment and protection to the human being. level of importance they assume.