Angie Vega (2022)
Chile is a long, narrow country located in South America, with a wide variety of climates due to its latitude and geography. The Andes extend along almost the entire country. The northern region includes the Atacama desert, considered the driest desert on the planet. It has several active volcanoes, lakes, islands, archipelagos, and forest regions. The Chilean Antarctica is the southernmost part of the planet. Chile is a democratic republic, and all citizens are obligated to vote by the constitution. Its legal system is based on the civil law model, giving more weight to statutory law than legal precedent.
As a civil law country, Chile categorizes animals as property in the civil code. Regarding animal rights and animal protection, Chile’s body of judicial decisions is not as developed as in countries such as Argentina or Colombia. However, animals are considered sentient beings by statute and are subject to protection, as they are part of nature. Even though there have been attempts to give animals the recognition of nonhuman persons at the judicial level, they have not been successful to this date.
Chile does not have a specific animal welfare law. There are a number of laws laying out welfare standards for different animals. Chile’s animal protection act seeks to protect all animals from unnecessary pain and suffering. “Decretos” 28, 29, and 30 establish mandatory welfare standards for agricultural animals, making the country more advanced in the treatment of animals raised for food compared to other countries in the region. Regarding companion animals, this country has a law for “responsible ownership of companion animals” that establishes defined welfare standards for dogs and cats. Arguably, wildlife is the least protected. The monitoring and enforcement of these laws are generally weak, with the Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) as the central authority to enforce animal protection. However, their focus is agricultural animals. Bullfighting was prohibited in the XIX century. However, it continued happening in some municipalities. It was prohibited again in the Sanitary Code. Rodeo and dog racing continue to be legal.
II. Animals in the Constitution
Animals are not mentioned in the Chilean Constitution. Yet they are subject to protection under the right to live in an environment free of contamination established in article 19 of the constitution.
III. Animals in the Civil Code
The Chilean Civil Code treats animals as property. More specifically, animals are considered “movable assets,” meaning they are property capable of moving by themselves. Being in the same category of “objects” or “things,” animals are subjects of human appropriation, according to article 567. The animal owner is responsible for all the damages caused by the animal, even after it has been released or lost. This is true unless the release, loss, or damage cannot be imputable to the owner’s fault. Other articles in this code mentioning the categorization of animals as property include articles 570, 608, 620, 621, 646, 2326, and 2327.
IV. Animals in the Criminal Code
Unlike the civil code, where animals are not given any recognition that sets them apart from inanimate objects, the criminal code elevates their status and treats animal cruelty as a misdemeanor. Article 291 BIS punishes animal cruelty with imprisonment of up to 3 years and/or monetary fines and perpetual absolute incapacity to possess any animal. Article 291 TER defines animal cruelty or mistreatment as “[a]ny action or omission, occasional or recurring, that unjustifiably causes damage, pain or suffering to the animal.” In addition, the criminal code punishes the poisoning of animals with imprisonment of up to 5 years.
V. Other Laws Protecting Animals
Ley 20.380, 2009
This law, also known as the animal protection act, is the primary law regarding animal protection, and it recognizes animals as sentient beings that are part of nature. It establishes general duties towards animals. Animals must be respected and given adequate treatment, and unnecessary suffering must be avoided. This law modifies the criminal code by increasing the punishment for animal cruelty. In addition, Article 12 gives judges the power to confiscate the animal victim of animal cruelty.
This broad law regulates topics such as animal testing, experimentation and research, and the rearing, transport, and slaughter of agricultural animals. It encourages education on animal respect and protection in schools. Labs, zoos, circuses, and other establishments that keep animals for exhibition and entertainment are allowed to do so, provided they meet housing and safety requirements.
Article 3 establishes that “any person who, in any capacity, keeps an animal must take care of it and provide it with adequate food and shelter, according, at least, to the minimum needs of each species and the information provided by science and experience.” This article also talks about not restricting the freedom of movement of wild animals unnecessarily.
The Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) is the designated authority for enforcing animal protection, focusing mainly on agricultural animals. In addition, article 8 creates the Animal Bioethics Committee to create guidelines for the ethical use of animals in scientific research.
A. Companion animals
In requiring that schools teach respect and protection toward animals, Ley 20.380, 2009 establishes that education on responsible ownership of animals has priority, with the purpose of controlling stray animal populations. This law also imposes the duty to provide adequate food and shelter according to at least the minimum needs of the species.
LEY 21.020, 2017
This law is about the responsible ownership of pets or companion animals, also known as “Ley Cholito.” It seeks to lay the rights and duties of responsible owners of companion animals, protect the health and well-being of companion animals, protect public health and people’s safety, and regulate civil liability for damages to persons and property caused by companion animals.
There are many important novel points to this law. However, most of them are general, and their application is complex. For instance, some of the duties of companion animal owners include registering and microchipping the animal, providing the animal with food and sanitary conditions, and responding civilly for damages caused by the animal. It prohibits animal fighting, animal training to encourage and enforce aggressive behavior, and the abandonment of animals. It also bans euthanasia as a method of stray population control.
It creates a registration system containing six different registries for the identification of animals. The Ministry of Interior and Public Security is in charge of maintaining such registries, which are: 1) the national registry of companion animals, 2) the national registry of potentially dangerous animals of the canine species, 3) the registry of non-profit legal persons that promote responsible ownership of pets and companion animals, 4) the registry of breeders and sellers of companion animals, 5) the registry of breeders and sellers of potentially dangerous animals of the canine species, and 6) the registry of temporary shelters for companion animals.
Non-profit legal persons that promote responsible ownership of pets and companion animals are given the ability to file a report for animal cruelty. This law increased the punishment for animal cruelty and introduced an absolute perpetual inability to own animals.
Municipalities can rescue animals without identification. They are also the enforcing authority for the purposes of this law.
Under this law, a pet or companion animal is defined as a “domestic animal, whatever their species, that is kept by people for company or safety purposes.” Responsible ownership means the “set of obligations that a person undertakes when they decide to accept and keep a pet or companion animal, which consists, among other things, of registering the animal with the competent authority when appropriate, providing them with food, shelter and good treatment, providing them with the essential veterinary care for their well-being, and not subjecting them to suffering.”
B. Farm animals
Chile is one of the world's leading producers and exporters of pork, salmon, trout, and chicken.
The welfare of agricultural animals is regulated by “Ley 20380," more specifically, in articles 3, 4, and 11. In addition, this law is complemented by “Decretos” 28, 29, and 30 of 2013. Chile regulates the welfare of agricultural animals in three different phases: rearing, transport, and slaughter.
Article 3 of “Ley 20380” establishes the general standard to provide care, food, and shelter. Article 4 establishes that animal transport “must be carried out in conditions that avoid mistreatment or serious deterioration of their health, adopting the appropriate measures according to the species, the type of animal, and the specific transportation method utilized. Article 11 establishes that animals must be slaughtered using rational methods that avoid unnecessary suffering.
The Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) is the designated authority for applying and enforcing farm animal welfare laws. However, the applicability of these laws is almost nonexistent, as violations are sanctioned with administrative fines and there are too many animals in the industry.
The regulatory system of farm animal welfare comprises Decretos No. 28, 29, and 30, which are the indirect result of the bilateral trade agreement between Chile and the European Union. This set of regulations applies to domestic and wild animals that provide meat, skin, feathers, and other products. They required animals not to be hit or mishandled and gives examples of such treatments. Personnel handling the animals during the three phases of rearing, transport, and slaughter must be trained in animal handling and welfare.
These “decretos” adopted the guidelines on animal welfare provided by the OIE.
Decreto No. 28, 2013
Regulates the welfare standards of animals in the slaughter phase. Some critical aspects of this law include the requirement to stunned animals with adequate methods that decrease their suffering before slaughter. Animals must be bled after being stunned, and animals must remain unsensitized until they die, except for ritual slaughter in article 24. Article 8 prohibits the treatment of animals that causes them pain during the displacement from or to the corrals. It authorizes using mechanisms like compressed air and electric stimulus to guide movement or when animals refuse to move.
Decreto No. 29, 2013
Regulates the welfare of animals during the rearing phase, their commercialization, and in other animal-keeping establishments, such as zoos, circuses, and other exhibition facilities. It defines industrial production and talks about confinement. An important aspect of this law is that it prohibits hitting animals or handling them in a way that causes them unnecessary suffering. However, it authorizes using techniques such as compressed air and electrical stimulation to guide movement or when the animal refuses to move forward. Surgical procedures such as castration, dehorning, disbudding, tail docking, debeaking, etc., must be done using techniques that minimize pain and suffering. In addition, it encourages better practices to improve animal welfare. To maintain their health, animals must be given food and water in adequate quantity, quality, and frequency according to the species. Sick animals must be given adequate treatment as soon as possible. Regarding environmental conditions in the confinement facilities, air circulation, dust levels, temperature, humidity, and gas concentrations must be maintained under adequate limits for the animals. Light, either natural or artificial, should be appropriately provided to satisfy the ethologic and physiologic needs of the animals.
Decreto No. 30, 2013
Regulates the welfare standards of animals during transportation to the slaughterhouse. However, there is no limitation regarding the number of animals that can be transported at the time. This law establishes that animals cannot be transported in conditions that can cause unnecessary pain and suffering. Article 10 establishes that animals selected for traveling must be fit for travel conditions. Animals susceptible to injuries must be transported separately. And veterinary inspection before loading the animals is necessary to evaluate whether the animals are suitable for travel. Animals must be given food and water every 24 hours. Animals should be unloaded at an authorized facility and provided at least 8 hours of rest whenever possible. This regulation has aspects for ground, air, and sea transportation.
The term wild animal is defined in the Civil Code in article 608 as those animals that “live naturally free and independent from men, such as beasts and fish.” “Ley 20380,” in article 3, talks about not restricting the freedom of movement of wild animals in an unnecessary manner, particularly if it would cause pain or alter their normal behavior. Legislation regarding the welfare of wildlife is less developed than the legislation regulating the welfare of companion animals and farm animals in Chile. The hunting law and the fishing and aquaculture law regulate the treatment of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. Chile is part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Ley 19.473, 1996
Also known as the hunting law, substitute “Ley No. 4.601,” 1929 and article 609 of the Civil Code. It focuses on regulating the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial wildlife species. It applies to the “hunting, capturing, rearing, conservation, and sustainable use of wildlife species,” excepting aquatic species and resources. This law prohibits hunting native species but allows the hunting of certain invasive species in a controlled manner. Invasive species considered harmful can be hunted without any restriction. This means that unprotected species can be hunted for recreational and commercial purposes. Protected species can be hunted so long as it is for scientific, breeding establishment, or sustainable use purposes. Authorized hunting methods must avoid unnecessary suffering.
The Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) is the designated authority for applying and enforcing this law. This law requires a hunting license issued by the SAG.
Ley 18.892, 1989
Also known as the general law for fishing and aquaculture. This law was consolidated and coordinated by “Decreto Supremo” No. 430, 1991. It seeks the preservation of hydrobiological resources, and all extractive fishing, aquaculture, and research activities that are carried out in national waters for the conservation and sustainable use of hydrobiological resources. Aquaculture must contemplate standards that safeguard animal welfare and procedures that avoid unnecessary suffering. Still, it does not mention animal welfare, such as fish slaughter or specific welfare standards during extractive fishing, aquaculture, or research activities involving aquatic animals.
Other laws and regulations regarding aquatic wildlife and aquaculture include “Ley 20657, 2013,” Environmental Regulation for Aquaculture (RAMA), Regulation of Protective Measures, Control and High-Risk Eradication (RESA), Regulation on Hydrobiological Pests (REPLA), and Ley 20293, 2008 or “cetacean law.”
VI. Relevant Jurisprudence
A. Judicial Decision on Animal Cruelty
Before Ley 20.380, 2009, animal cruelty was sanctioned with monetary fines. There are a few decisions in which animal cruelty offenders.
In 2013, in decision RUC 1100 479850-0-RIT 8023-2011, the San Bernardo (Santiago) tribunal found that “Ramba,” an Asian elephant that had spent decades as a circus elephant, had been mistreated by her owner and that such mistreatment had affected her physical and emotional wellbeing.
In 2015 in decision ROL 293-15, the appellate court of Copiapó sentenced three men for tightening a pregnant dog to a truck and dragging her. Relevant judicial decisions on animal rights. The defendant was sentenced to 100 of imprisonment and a fine as he was found guilty of the crime of acts of mistreatment and cruelty against animals established in article 291 BIS of the criminal code.
B. Jurisprudence on Animal Rights
Chile does not recognize animals as subjects of rights. However, there have been unsuccessful attempts to get animals considered nonhuman persons in court.
More recently, in 2022, the Interspecies Justice Foundation filed the first writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Sandai, an orangutan living in a Zoo in Chile. The petition urged the court to recognize Sandai, a 28-year-old orangutan, to be recognized as a non-human person and subject of rights and, therefore, to end his captivity. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court denying the admissibility of the habeas corpus filed on behalf of Sandai. In dismissing the appeal, the court stated that the constitution in its article 19 refers to persons and that, by the Royal Spanish Academy, persons are individuals of the human species. Therefore, Sandai does not meet the legal requirements to be protected under this legal mechanism.