Taiwan on Tuesday raised the penalty for animal abuse and became the first country in Asia to ban the consumption of dogs and cats.
Under an Animal Protection Act amendment that passed its third reading at the Legislature, people who sell, purchase, eat or possess the carcasses of dogs or cats or any food products made with their carcasses or organs are subject to a fine between 50,000 new Taiwan dollar and 250,000 new Taiwan dollar (US$1 equals 30.62 new Taiwan dollar).
Violators will be banned from registering any pets and from applying to adopt a pet.
Prior to the amendment, Taiwan's Animal Protection Act had only penalised the act of selling or purchasing dog and cat meat.
Lawmakers on Tuesday also stiffened the penalty for killing or intentionally injuring animals, raising the maximum punishment from one year's imprisonment with a fine between 100,000 new Taiwan dollar and 1 million new Taiwan dollar to two years behind bars plus a 200,000 new Taiwan dollar to 2 million new Taiwan dollar fine.
The violator's name, photograph and offense will also be made public.
The new act stipulates that repeat offenders will face a prison sentence of one to five years in addition to a fine of 500,000 new Taiwan dollar to 5 million new Taiwan dollar.
No More Rough Rides
Also Tuesday, a clause proposed by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Chih-wei was passed by the Legislature, making it illegal for pet owners to "walk" their dogs by leashing it to a motor vehicle. Violators can be fined between 3,000 new Taiwan dollar to 15,000 new Taiwan dollar.
Chiu said there had been several reports of dogs being injured when forced to run beside a scooter or car driven by their owners, who thought they were taking their pets out for a walk.
Kuomintang Legislator Alicia Wang hailed the bill's passage as another step toward a more animal-friendly Taiwan.
'Such law is needed'
The amendment came in the wake of three high-profile animal abuse cases last year.
In one, the defense minister made a public apology after a video showed soldiers hanging a stray puppy by its neck over a seawall and watching it struggle until it died. The footage triggered public outcry, with many urging an immediate concrete response from lawmakers.
Also last year, after a lamb hotpot restaurant was found to be serving dog meat to cut costs, Kaohsiung became the first city in Taiwan to ban the eating of dogs and cats.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Huang Jin-cheng, speaking after the Animal Protection Act amendment passed its first reading earlier this year, said Taiwan had no law penalising those who ate dog and cat meat.
"Given Kaohsiung's case, it is clear that such regulation is necessary," he said.