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Angie Vega (2022)

I. Introduction

Bolivia is a landlocked country located in central-western South America. The country adopted a new constitution in 2009, which included the right to the environment, and it is the only constitution in South America that specifically addresses animal protection. In 2017, the Constitutional Court changed the presidential term from a consecutive two-term limit to no term limits.

More than 40% of all animal and plant life on planet Earth is in Bolivia’s tropical rainforests and Pantanal wetlands. Bolivia has a diverse geography. One-third of the country is in the Andes mountains, where it shares the Titicaca Lake - the world’s highest navigable lake - with Peru. Bolivia also has lowlands, which are situated in the Amazon basin and contain one of the largest salt flats. It has habitats ranging from snowy peaks and volcanoes to forests, lowland plains, and deserts. The country also gets over 8000 mm of rain on average per year, which makes it one of the wettest countries in the world.

Bolivia has a cultural heritage as rich as its natural surroundings. Even though Bolivia’s main languages are Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, and Guaraní, the country also has 37 official languages. All of them are indigenous.

Bolivia has a beautifully written laws where nature and animals seem to be highly regarded. However, the applicability of these laws is very difficult and almost nonexistent, as most of these laws lack meaningful implementation, methods, and organisms of enforcement. For instance, under Bolivia’s laws, it is established that domestic animals have rights and that their lives are protected. Yet, there is a stray animal crisis where there is an overpopulation of abandoned dogs wandering the streets. Wildlife is also highly protected and wildlife trafficking is considered a crime. However, due to the richness of their biological diversity together with the financial situation of the country, where approximately 39 percent of Bolivians live in poverty, the wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative illegal businesses in the country.

II. Animals in the Constitution

The 2009 Bolivian Constitution focuses mainly on the preservation of nature, rather than on animal protection. It expressly protects and promotes the sustainable use of the environment throughout its text, including native flora and fauna and domestic animals. Article 33 establishes the right to live in a protected, healthy, and balanced environment. The purpose of this right is not just to guarantee the normal and permanent development of humans, but also other “living beings.” The right to the environment is considered a collective right, which means that any person can bring pertinent legal actions for its defense. Under the constitution, animals are “resources” that can be used.

Article 108 of the constitution establishes the protection and defense of the environment as a duty of all persons, which ensures the adequate development of all living beings. In connection with this duty, the government has the responsibility to ensure its preservation and to contribute to the protection of the environment and wildlife. Article 302 gives the municipal governments the responsibility of contributing to the protection of the environment, natural resources, wildlife, and domestic animals.

III. Animals in the Civil Code

Animals are not specifically classified as movable objects in the Civil Code. However, It can be said that under the Civil Code, animals are considered “things” subject to property in Bolivia. For instance, Article 83 establishes that "natural fruits" (something that is derived or produced by another "thing" without diminishing its quality or substance) are "those that come from another object, with or without human intervention, such as, respectively, the offspring of animals, or agricultural and mineral products. In addition, article 141 establishes that “animals susceptible of being hunted or fished may be acquired by whom captures it.”

IV. Animals in the Criminal Code

Hunting and fishing are prohibited in natural reserves and are punished with community service and fines (article 356). When it comes to domestic animals, Article 350 establishes animal cruelty and biocide as crimes punishable with imprisonment of six months to up to five years, fines, or community work.

III. Laws Protecting “Mother Earth”

Bolivia granted all nature equal rights to humans in 2010 through Ley 71, also known as “the law for the rights of mother earth.” This law gives the environment, or "mother earth" as it is described in the law, and all its components the status of a collective subject of public interest for the purpose of guaranteeing the protection of its rights. Bolivia also has Ley 300, 2012, which is the legal framework for the protection of “mother earth and integral development to live well.” This law sets the parameters to guarantee a harmonious relationship between the development of society and the protection of the environment through the sustainable use of its different components and systems. Under this law, “hunting, fishing or capturing animals using explosives, poison and other similar that cause damage, degradation or threaten the extinction of species will be punished with imprisonment from one to three years and monetary fine.” Article 111 of this law punishes the encouragement, promotion, capture, and/or trade of wildlife with imprisonment of up to two years plus monetary fees equivalent to the value of the specimen.

IV. Protecting Domestic Animals

The Law for the Defense of Animals against Acts of Cruelty and Mistreatment (Ley 700, 2015) sees animals as part of “mother earth” and, for that reason, they must be respected and protected against cruelty. Law 700 applies only to companion animals. Under this law, animals are subject to protection and have the right to be recognized as living beings, to live in a healthy environment, and to be protected against violence and cruelty. It modifies the criminal code by adding article 350 bis. Ter. making both animal cruelty and biocide crimes. It is important to note that, under this law, abandonment is not considered a form of cruelty.

“Ley municipal 239, 2017” is a municipal law in La Paz, that seeks to promote companion animal welfare and to decrease the overpopulation of stray animals. It promotes the spay and neutering of dogs and cats, creates a companion animal registry, and prohibits the abandonment of companion animals. This law also establishes the duties of companion animal owners, which are:

  1. The duty to provide fresh water and food of good quality in adequate amounts;
  2. The duty to provide adequate space and shelter;
  3. The duty to register the animal with the municipality;
  4. The duty to provide healthcare in an integral manner;
  5. The duty to vaccinate and deworm the animal;
  6. The duty to avoid the animal is harmed by others; and
  7. The duty to prevent the animal from wandering outside, so they do not become a menace to other people and other animals.

Unfortunately, this municipal law has not been implemented, which makes most of it inapplicable and unenforceable.

Other animal-related laws include prohibitions on the use of wild and/or domestic animals in circuses and the possession of dangerous dogs. In some instances, possession of dangerous dogs may be allowed if prior authorization and licenses are obtained and owners comply with all safety measures.

Related articles

Related cases

Related laws

Ley 700, 2015:  Ley 700 is the anti-animal cruelty statute of Bolivia. Under this law, companion animals are living beings, and have the right to live, and to a healthy and protected environment. This law lays out the rules for the defense of animals against cruelty committed by humans. Animals are considered part of mother earth, and therefore, their lives have to be defended and respected. This law punishes physical, psychological, emotional and sexual mistreatment, and prohibits the breeding of domestic animals for commercial purposes. It also prohibits sport hunting and overworking animals, especially those of an older age. It adds animal cruelty and "biosidio" to the criminal code. 

LEY Nº 553, 2014: This law contains the legal framework that establishes the minimum legal conditions for the possession of dangerous dogs. The purpose of this law is to prevent aggression against people and their property by prohibiting the possession of dangerous dogs. Possession of dangerous dogs is allowed with prior authorization, obtaining a license, and compliance with safety measures established in this law.

LEY Nº 300, 2012: Ley 300 establishes the legal framework for the conservation of the environment, or "mother earth." This law recognizes the rights of mother earth and the legal status that are subjects of rights.

LEY 71, 2010: Ley 71 is “the law for the rights of mother earth." This law recognizes the rights of mother earth, as well as the obligations and duties of the government and society to guarantee respect for these rights. This law gives the environment, or "mother earth," and all its components, the status of collective subject of public interest for the purpose of guaranteeing the protection of its rights.

LEY Nº 4040, 2009: This law eliminates the use of wild and/or domestic animals in circuses in the national territory, as it is considered an act of cruelty against animals. Circuses were given a deadline of one year to surrender their animals and modify their shows.

LEY Nº 4095, 2009:  Declared of necessity and public utility, the construction of shelters for abandoned pets in the city of Oruro is authorized under this law to protect the health and physical integrity of people as well as the welfare of animals.

Ley 2352, 2002: Approved and adopted the "CONVENTION ON THE CONSERVATION OF MIGRATORY SPECIES OF WILD ANIMALS" signed in Bonn, Germany, on June 23, 1979, into the Bolivian legal system.

Related Links - BOLIVIA’S CANINE CITIZENS - Crimes against the environment. What do the Bolivian laws say? (Article in Spanish) - Do Dogs have the right to an attorney? (Article in Spanish)

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