"I feel ashamed when such things happen in China," said Han Wei, when looking at a gloomy video of a small cat being crushed to death under a high-heeled shoe.
The online video has sparked outrage among netizens since it was released in February. They offered a reward of 50,000 yuan (approximately US$6,250) to anyone who could find the cat-abuser and police even stepped in to investigate.
As a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top advisory body, Han raised a resolution with another 23 delegates, calling for laws to curb animal abuse.
China has long been under fire from abroad for cruelty to animals.
"(Animal abuse) cannot be tackled with public opinion or moral pressure, it's time for legislation," said Mang Ping, assistant professor with the Central Socialist Academy, who has been advocating animal rights for many years in China.
Countries like Norway and the United States have issued special laws on animal welfare and others such as Singapore and Malaysia have incorporated articles on animal welfare in their legal system to crack down on animal mistreatment. China has the Law on the Protection of Wild Life, which does not take into consideration pets and other general creatures.
At the country's first seminar on pet protection in south China last month, more than 40 animal rights advocates conferred on how to help people treat their pets better since more Chinese are keeping pets, and whether there should be legislation to punish those who dump or mistreat small animals.
Mang holds that a new law will help the general public learn how to treat animals well. "Personally, I think it should be called the anti-animal abuse law or the animal abuse prohibition law."
She argued that two major principles on animal welfare should be mulled: preventing animals from unnecessary pain and feeding them according to their basic needs.
In the southernmost island province of Hainan, a document of regulations on animal protection is expected to be listed on the provincial law-making agenda to draw up the nation's first such law within the year.
Liang Feng, a lawyer with the Beijing Lawyers Association, said criminal penalties should be outlined when enacting a new law to punish serious animal abuse that has a harmful social impact.
Besides punishments such as warnings, fines or detainment, he suggested setting up a civil litigation system that allows animal protection organizations to lodge lawsuits for animal abuse on behalf of the general public or an animal which has been badly treated.
Animal abusers should be given three to six months of jail term or a hefty fine to stop such behaviors from being repeated, said Dr. Song Wei from prestigious China University of Science and Technology.
(Xinhua News Agency April 6, 2006)