Costa Rican Congress approves legislation against animal cruelty

Humane Society International welcomes the reform in the penal code that includes jail time against animal cruelty

Humane Society International

  • Dogs at a rehabilitation center in Costa Rica. Kent Gilbert/AP Images for The Humane Society of the United States

The Costa Rican Congress has approved the reform of a penal code that sanctions animal cruelty with jail time. Lawmakers passed the law unanimously in second debate following five years of deliberation and negotiations.

Cynthia Dent, global field manager for Humane Society International/Latin America, stated: “This vote by the Costa Rican Congress marks a much awaited victory for animals, and ratifies the country and government’s firm position against animal cruelty. We are honored to work hand in hand with the Costa Rican government in fighting cruelty. This law provides a tool to prosecute people who blatantly infringe the anti-cruelty law which will now be punishable with jail time. We  congratulate the Asociacion de Bienestar y Amparo Animal, which negotiated with the legislative assembly to make this law possible.”

Among its improved sanctions:

  • The law establishes penalties of jail time ranging from three months to a year for harming an animal in a debilitating form or for bestiality.
  • Anyone causing an animal’s death could serve up to three years in jail.
  • Anyone promoting or organizing any kind of animal fight, including dogfights, could serve up to three years in jail.
  • The law allows the judicial system to gather a database of people who break the law against animal cruelty, and allows the government to start gathering data on crimes related to animal welfare.

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HSI/Latin America will continue to work hand in hand with the Costa Rican Department of Animal Health in following up on complaints against cruelty. HSI/Latin America and the Ministry of the Presidency have established training on animal welfare issues for all police officers, through the Police Academy, on animal welfare. We will also continue to work in conjunction with entities in charge of determining crimes against animal welfare and developing their capacity to deal with these crimes.

Media contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras,, +1 (301) 721-6440

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