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Panama - Animal Welfare
Abuse of an animal can be a number of things under Panamanian law. It could include keeping the animal chained up, not providing water and food, allowing it to be ill without treatment, physically abusing the animal or simply keeping the animal in squalid conditions.
It is also a criminal offence for animals to be used for performances, fighting or racing. In this case there are heavy fines, closure of the premises and the animals will be confiscated by the authorities. Animals cannot be sold in a public place as part of the protection of animals.
There are also proposals to take action against experiments on animals. The proposals are that experiments should only be carried out on animals if it is for the testing of different treatments and control of disease and if there is no alternative method of testing. An animal would only be able to have one experiment carried out on it and the company carrying out the experiments would have to prove that the animals are well cared for. Before an experiment is carried out the animal would have to be sedated in order to reduce the possibility of discomfort.
Panama does have a problem with a large number of stray animals, mainly because in the past the animals have simply been tolerated and there have been no procedures in place to take them off the streets, treat them for disease and find them proper homes.
There are a number of charities that now work towards keeping animals safe. The Arriajan is an animal shelter in the town of the same name which has provides homes to more than 200 stray cats and dogs and survives solely on charitable donations from members of the public and corporate sponsors. A growing problem in Panama is when people struggle for money and the pets are the first to suffer and are often left at shelters like this one. The SpayPanama charity spays cats and dogs as well as helping with general veterinary treatment for those people who cannot afford to get their pets treated at full price. The SpayPanama clinics ask only for a donation as the vets are giving their time free of charge and it is only the cost of medication which needs to be covered.
In rural areas there is not a great deal of understanding on the importance of having pets neutered, so the charity works to promote understanding and work with the people to end the problem of strays on the streets. Spay Panama does not run an animal shelter but is always trying to find homes for strays.
There is also an organisation called Friends of the Animals of Boquete, which was founded by expats and locals and works in a similar vein to SpayPanama, relying on donations from people to carry out neutering procedures and give medical treatment to sick animals in the area. Regular clinics are held with the assistance of visiting vets and volunteers and some of the clinics have been known to carry out more than 150 operations in one day.
In recent years there has been an increase in the amount of people who now understand the importance of neutering and every year there are more and more animals that are being treated by these charities.
There are some international organisations which run animal welfare campaigns in Panama such as those who campaign against the capture of dolphins in Panamanian waters as well as those who run conservation projects to protect endangered species.
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