The passing of a new hunting law in Croatia has banned the previously-legal killing or ”removal” of dogs and cats on hunting lands. However, unsupervised animals found moving freely at a distance of 200 meters or more of a settlement are put in danger by this same law.
Although the main purpose of the law is not the protection of animals, but rather the legalization of their killing, it is nevertheless disheartening that very few proposals by environmental or animal protection organizations were taken into account during the public debate on the matter. Animal Friends Croatia cautions that by submitting to the hunting lobby, this law has endangered the lives of both humans and animals.
Luka Oman, president of Animal Friends Croatia, and special adviser to the Croatian Minister of Agriculture on matters of animal protection, comments that “it is commendable that the killing or ‘removal’ of dogs and cats from hunting grounds – a poorly formulated previous piece of legislation which provided an alibi for hunters to open fire on dogs and cats without repercussions, even in the vicinity of the animals’ owners – has been outlawed. This is in accordance with the Animal Protection Act, which requires hunters to treat dogs and cats found in hunting grounds as presumably abandoned or lost.“
Animal Friends Croatia is particularly pleased with the reversal of the legalization of the “removal” of dogs and cats from hunting grounds, given that they have fought and lobbied for this change for over 15 years. In their campaigns they called attention to the fact that the law resulted in a great number of pets being shot.
On the other hand, the new law is also a step backwards, because it states that pet-guardians are forbidden from allowing their dogs or cats to roam unsupervised within a hunting area at a distance greater than 200 meters from a settlement, as opposed to the previously prescribed 300 meter radius.
It is clear, of course, that pet-guardians should not let their dogs roam freely; however this new law limits animals’ freedom of movement almost entirely. To be more exact, the law forbids the hunting of wild game with the use of firearms within a 100 meter radius of a settlement. In the case of settlements with a population over 10,000, the no-hunting radius extends to 300 meters for settlements in plains or valleys, and 200 meters for settlements in higher, mountainous terrain. The new law also damages pre-existent ownership rights by asserting that a hunting ground can be established on private property without the consent of the land-owner, which consequently limits the land-owner’s right to move freely on their own property. In addition, various objections made by environmental organizations were not acknowledged in the process of drafting the new law.
Viktoria Krčelić from Animal Friends Croatia has this to add: “This leads to an absurd situation where a land-owner whose property is part of a hunting ground has to live in constant fear of stray bullets. Moreover, they are not able to let their dog move around freely either, despite being on private property. It is also unclear how one is meant to prevent a cat from wandering outside of the prescribed 200 meter zone, as well as how one should explain to their children that their lives will be in danger should they ever find themselves just 100 meters away from the outermost house in the village. It is absurd that the law has taken a step backward in that respect, considering that the previously prescribed distances were already too small to begin with.“
Animal Friends Croatia is also concerned by the reduction of the age requirement for acquiring a hunter’s permit from 18 to just 17 and a half years old, meaning that minors are permitted to carry firearms and open fire on animals. Combined with all the previously mentioned changes being introduced by this new law, it is clear that this will only further endanger the lives of those whose properties are part of hunting grounds or whose properties border hunting grounds.
It is clear that people should not have to fear for their own safety, or the safety of their children and pets. Therefore, in addition to giving praise for the revision of the legislation on the “removal” of dogs and cats, Animal Friends Croatia is calling for more changes to the hunting law in order to correct the various oversights detailed above, as well as to allow other organizations to be heard and for their input to be given the attention it deserves.
Featured image: the silhouette of a hunter. Image credit Paxson Woelber, CC BY-SA 3.0.