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Aneesa Samaroo displays a banner against animal cruelty as she sits next to her pet dog.

It’s a start! That’s how animal activists in this country feel about the increase of penalties for persons caught being cruel to animals. On Wednesday in the Lower House, an amendment to the Summary Offences Act was made to increase the penalty for cruelty to animals from $400 or two months imprisonment to $100,000 and to one year imprisonment.

“We need to care for these animals that cannot speak and look after them with a certain humanity,” Caroni Central MP Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie said on Wednesday.

It’s a revision activists said was long overdue. However, they believe there should be a sliding scale of fines for different offenses as they said not all animal cruelty crimes are the same.

“Some people have been lobbying for the law change for 40-years,” Doggess of Love founder Elspeth Duncan said.

“There’s a lot to iron out,” she continued.

The activist said they are thankful for the amendment, laws need enforcement and therefore sensitisation for officers are needed.

In 2019 Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith established an Animal Cruelty Unit.

“There have been cases where people phoned into police stations and were ignored,” Burford said

Now, days before the amendment was made in parliament Duncan started a social media protest called Voice of the Black Dog. She started after a video surfaced online showing three men hanging a black dog.

The men were later arrested.

“It was the absolute last straw,” animal activist Sharon Burford said.

“I couldn’t watch the entire video,” she continued.

The virtual protest got the support from hundreds as animal lovers posted pictures of their pets and placards with messages on behalf of the voiceless animals.

One placard read, “Don’t hang us, love us.”

But what causes people to illtreat animals in this country? Well according to Burford the common breed of the dogs (Pothound, Domestic short-haired cats) may be a contributing factor. Lack of education on how to treat animals could be another reason.

“We need to start having animal welfare education programmes in schools as part of the syllabus,” Duncan said.

“We need to start teaching children from an early stage to respect all forms of life,” she continued.

She told Guardian Media that persons in this country have lost empathy and the human population became numb as murders continue daily.

“It’s like you need mass counseling,” Duncan said

“The animal loves just stood up we wanted to see something happening,” she continued.

Canadian citizen and animal activist Teresa Shevchenko said she visited this country a couple of times and while animal cruelty happens in Canada, it’s more visible here.

Shevchenko said animal laws in Canada moved from NGOs to the Government and they are currently educating prosecutors.

The activist recommended an animal owner registry, a hotline to report crimes, and a national spaying and neutering programme.

The activists called on citizens to step in and assist if they see an abused animal. They said all reports go to the shelters or to a rescuer which can create an overwhelmed system.

“You take the animal and help it,” Duncan said.