Croatia vows to punish animal abandonment with a prison sentence

Croatia makes historic move as it pledges to punish animal abandonment with a prison sentence

Croatia has been praised after implementing new legislation which could see those guilty of animal abandonment facing a prison sentence.

The new rule, under amendments to the Penal Code, came into effect on April 2.

They are part of a slew of long-awaited positive changes in animal protection.

Under the legislation, people who abandon animals who are domestic pets, captive wild animals, or any animal they are responsible for, could face up to one year in prison.

Furthermore, if the animal abandonment involves more than one animal, or involves the death of the creature involved, the guilty party could face up to two years in prison.

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Criminal offence

The new legislation, which has been described by advocates as ‘a significant victory for animal welfare’, follows years of campaigning by Animal Friends Croatia.

The animal welfare organisation initiated a petition in 2021 urging for animal abandonment to be treated as a criminal offence.

A staggering 80 per cent of the population supported the campaign to imprison individuals for animal abandonment.

As a result of the new legislation, the abandonment ‘must be reported to the police or municipal prosecutor’s office, rather than the veterinary inspection as before’.

According to Animal Friends Croatia, this is so citizens ‘will no longer have to wait for veterinary inspectors to respond to reports of abandonment…Instead, they can immediately report the act to the police’.

This will streamline the process and aims to expedite responses and facilitate the prosecution of offenders.

In addition, it hopes the new rule will act as a deterrent against animal abandonment, as people are ‘now aware that they risk imprisonment’.

Animal abandonment in Croatia

A statement released by Animal Friends Croatia notes that more than 10,000 animals are abandoned each year in the country.

The victims include a range of species from cats and dogs to cows and sheep that ‘people acquire for incentives, only to abandon them later’.

The organisation says: “This is particularly problematic because finding suitable accommodation for them is very challenging, and it also represents a significant financial burden for local government units.

“Association members also hope that citizens will now carefully take into consideration whether they have the necessary resources to provide long-term care for an animal before acquiring one.

“The goal is to promote responsible pet ownership and encourage measures such as spaying, neutering, and microchipping to control animal populations, thus reducing instances of abandonment.”

Ban on animal ownership

In addition to the punishment for animal abandonment, the Ministry of Justice and Administration is incorporating a new security measure into the Penal Code – ‘a ban on owning or acquiring animals for a period of one to five years’.

This means courts can impose this restriction on people who have previously offended if there is any risk of them offending again.

“This inclusion is crucial as it addresses the concerning trend of offenders quickly acquiring new animals after perpetrating acts of cruelty, thereby posing ongoing risks to animal welfare,” says Animal Friends Croatia.

And furthermore, penalties for ‘causing unnecessary pain or suffering to animals and for killing or severely abusing animals’ have been increased.

The previous maximum penalty of one year in prison has been doubled to up to two years.

In addition, ‘in cases where these offences are committed out of greed’, perpetrators may face imprisonment for up to three years, compared to the previous two years.


In a statement by Animal Friends Croatia, the organisation said: “[We express] gratitude towards the citizens who supported the petition, the Ministry for accepting their proposals, the government for enhancing existing provisions, and the Members of Parliament for supporting the criminalisation of animal abandonment and the escalation of penalties for animal abuse and killing.”

They emphasise that ‘animal abandonment is a heinous act that subjects animals to prolonged suffering and agony, highlighting the importance of enforcing these laws effectively’.

“Animal Friends Croatiathus urges anyone with information about law violations to promptly report any instances of animal abandonment and abuse to the police,” it said.

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Featured photo © anjajuli and kwanchaift via Adobe Stock


Croatia vows to punish animal abandonment with a prison sentence

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