Animal rights

Animal welfare set to be incorporated into our Constitution in 2024

At the end of 2023, the Senate unanimously approved a revision of the Belgian Constitution enshrining animals as sentient beings.

The text adds the following words to Article 7 bis of the Constitution: “In the exercise of their respective powers, the Federal State, the Communities and the Regions shall ensure the protection and welfare of animals as sentient beings”.

Until now, only the Belgian Civil Code has provided for animal protection: since 2020, the adoption of a “sentient being” category has meant that animals are no longer considered as “property”.

The inclusion of animals as sentient beings in the Constitution will, in principle, provide better legal protection for animals and will have an impact on judicial decisions in cases of mistreatment.

Once approved by the plenary session of the Senate, the proposed amendment will then be sent to the House, which will in turn have to vote on it. It will have to do so before the beginning of May, because parliament will be dissolved for the elections on 9 June.

In the Walloon Region, animals have had their own “welfare code” since 2019

Our association is present in the Walloon Region through our Refuge in Tournai and our Refuge du Marais, in Coutisse.

Concretely, what is the Walloon animal welfare code?

This Walloon Code begins with article 1: The animal is a sensitive being which has needs which are specific to it according to its nature.

Comprising 12 chapters and 109 articles, which aim to guarantee greater respect for animals, this text deals in particular with the keeping of animals, prohibited practices and authorized interventions on them, their trade, their transport and their introduction into Walloon territory, slaughters, experiments carried out on them as well as control, research, detection, prosecution, repression and reparation measures for offenses relating to animal welfare.

For example, you must be of legal age – 18 years old – to be able to keep an animal. The law also requires providing food, care and shelter that are suitable for the animal.

It is forbidden to abandon an animal, to lock it up, to tie it up without interruption, and to make it suffer. It will no longer be possible to donate an animal during a raffle or to dye or color an animal. It will also be prohibited to organize fights or shooting exercises on animals, and fair racetracks will be banned.

These rules concern ordinary citizens, but also breeders, circuses and zoological parks.

A permit is required to keep an animal

In practice, any adult person has a permit by default to keep an animal.

It is in the event of an infringement that it may be withdrawn from you. Temporarily or for life, depending on the type of offense. The objective? Avoid animals continually finding themselves in the hands of repeat offenders of animal abuse.

Finally, animal abuse will be severely punished in Wallonia, with the new code making it a first category offense, which corresponds to maximum penalties of 10 to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million euros.

Important: in Brussels, animals are no longer recognized as “furniture”!

In the Brussels Region, animals also benefit from better protection of the law. They are no longer legally considered as furniture, but as living beings “with feelings”. The status accorded to them in the Animal Welfare Act has changed.

Since the law of August 14, 1986, an animal has been seen as property in the Brussels Region. In fact, it was included in the category of movable and immovable property. This obsolete vision of the animal no longer corresponds to our society, where our faithful companions have taken on an increasingly important value in recent decades.

We are therefore delighted that this draft ordinance, unanimously adopted on November 13 by the Environment Committee of the Brussels Parliament, considers animals as “living beings with feelings”.

This legislative modification is part of the trend to go beyond the simple protection of animals and also to ensure their general well-being and meet their needs.

This change allows animals to benefit from special protection. Policy makers can “take full account of the requirements for the welfare of animals as sentient beings when formulating and implementing Brussels Capital Region policy in areas such as “agriculture, transport, economy, research and technological development”.

With the explicit consideration of the status of the animal in the law, the Brussels-Capital Region is following the example of other countries around the world including the Netherlands, France and New Zealand.