Breaking news: Guatemala passes omnibus anti-cruelty law, striking blow against wide range of practices

By on February 28, 2017 with 12 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Guatemala, Central America’s biggest and most populous nation with more than 15 million people, has adopted one of the world’s most comprehensive anti-cruelty laws – an omnibus measure that, in addition to its basic anti-cruelty provisions, creates protections for wildlife, companion animals, animals used in research, and animals used in circuses. It bans animal testing for cosmetics, and also dogfighting, and establishes penalties for spectators of this cruel activity. The law creates an official government platform to address animal welfare.

It’s the latest gain in our worldwide campaign to promote the adoption of anti-cruelty statutes in every nation in the world. We are finding that more nations are taking a broader look at our relationship with animals and are not restricting their work to the important practice of forbidding random acts of malicious cruelty. They are also tackling organized animal fighting, animal testing, and more.

Last week, newspapers in Guatemala reported a shocking story of animal cruelty: in the municipality of Sololá, San Marcos La Laguna, someone threw pieces of poisoned meat on the street. This was a diabolical and cruel way to kill street dogs. It did produce the desired result, but it also victimized more than a few family pets. The streets were littered with bodies of dead dogs who deserved much better from our species.

While Guatemala had an old law on the books prohibiting dog poisoning, there were no penalties for perpetrators. All that changes now.

This landmark animal welfare law approved today by Guatemala’s Congress — the first ever in the country – will, for the first time, penalize animal cruelty and its perpetrators, and implement strong protections for animals across a spectrum of other fronts.

“The law cracks down on perpetrators of animal cruelty by establishing fines, and setting up the government to deal with cruelty cases,” said Cynthia Dent, global field manager for Humane Society International, whose family has deep roots in Central America. “There has been an increase in the number of cruelty cases in Guatemala in recent years, and with this act, we are going to work to reverse this disturbing trend.” Among other things, the law will promote spay and neuter programs and run responsible pet ownership campaigns to reduce the large population of dogs roaming the streets of Guatemala. It will also outlaw culling, especially using painful methods, and make it illegal to abandon or leave animals to roam.

HSI was deeply involved from the beginning with the drafting and submission of the law. Our staff, led by Cynthia, guided the process of integrating three different pieces of legislation on animal cruelty that were sent to the Guatemalan Congress as part of a single, comprehensive bill. Now, with the law on the books, HSI will expand its presence and campaigns within Guatemala, including helping the government implement the new law.

Besides the freshly minted statute in Guatemala, we’ve worked to pass anti-cruelty legislation in El Salvador and Honduras, and we’ve helped usher in increased penalties for dogfighting in Costa Rica. After the passage of a nationwide dogfighting ban in Mexico in January, Mexico City earlier this month added language to its own constitution, recognizing animals as sentient beings whose welfare must be protected. The constitution of Mexico City now mandates secondary laws to determine penalties for animal abuse and guidelines for wildlife protection and humane farm animal practices.

Our HSI Farm Animal Protection team has also notched up some impressive victories in Latin America in recent years. Just last week, Barilla, the world’s leading pasta maker, confirmed that its Brazil operations will require egg suppliers to transition to cage-free housing systems for egg laying hens by 2020. In 2016, Alsea, the largest restaurant operator in Latin America, pledged to go cage-free, as did Arcos Dorados, the largest operator of McDonald’s restaurants in Latin America and the world, among many others.

Make no mistake, our movement for animal protection is a global one, and there’s no region of the world that should not embrace the idea of reducing violence toward the creatures who share our communities. Today, we took one more big step forward for animals, and we send our thanks to lawmakers in Guatemala for their humanity and decency.

Animal Research and Testing, Companion Animals, Farm Animals, Humane Society International, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Mick Quinn says:

    Excellent news, but… do you know what are the plans to enforce this new law and by whom? Thanks,

  2. Terry Biskovich says:

    Thank you for highlighting the passing of this landmark law by the Guatemalan Congress. This is very close to our hearts ~ I am the co-founder of Unidos para los Animales – Guatemala; I am also the co-publisher of the Revue magazine, March 2017 is its 25-year anniversary. To verify our content,

    I am respectively requesting permission to reprint this article on the Revue of course with full accreditation.

    Thank you for this and for the commitment to animal welfare around the world.

  3. Annoula Wylderich says:

    I so love omnibus bills. When I try to explain them to those who need clarification, I often refer to them as smorgasbord bills because they are basically a buffet of animal protection measures all in one big beautiful bill. The only thing missing is the bow! Cynthia Dent is an incredibly knowledgeable and hard-working staff member of the HSUS, as are the rest. Thanks for getting this done! Let’s keep rolling. . .

  4. Amber E. says:

    I am so very thankful this law has been passed. Living in Guatemala where there is so much cruelty and ignorance towards animals – this is a HUGE step forward in helping to raise the consciousness and giving all these innocent creatures – a voice.Thank you for all that you have done to get us this far.

  5. Debbie Hallmark says:

    Thank you! May all other places do the same!!!

  6. Flori Casia says:

    This is such a blessing and thank you for all the people who made this happen. I am a Guatemalan native but I live in the United States and one of the hardest thing to see when we go and visit is the cruelty and carelessness towards animals especially dogs. We are dog trainers from Bothell WA trying to make a difference in the lives of dogs here as well as in Guatemala. If anyone knows how we can get involved with the Humane Society Of The United States we would gladly volunteer our time to educate people about dogs and train them as well. We are the owners of Digg It Dog Training ( as well as our new organization that will be helping dogs in Guatemala (Guatemalan Street Dogs) the site for the organization is still under construction but we do have a Facebook and Instagram page for both. We pray that this will help thousands of dogs to be safe and protected from harm and not starve.

    Much Love

    Flori Casia

  7. Adriana Rosen says:

    The problem with any law or matters of the constitution for that matter is enforcement. The Constitution of Guatemala also mandates that all children attend school until the age of 16. There is no enforcement and there are no schools being built. It makes me happy to see this new law but until the government takes its thumb out of its ass and actually enforces all these well thought out laws….nothing will change. Chapines…demand change.

    • Lizz L says:

      The Humane Society is going to be helping with enforcement which should make a huge difference after all they have invested in the process so far.

      • Eric S says:

        NO you are not, or i would not have dead and dying dogs in my house and in the streets for the ENTIRE MONTH OF AUGUST —

        Common of many groups that come here, do good for a few weeks, leave and think they helped.. where are you NOW?>??

        We live here, we deal with this, you dont..

        Want to help, do it. dont say it!!!

        Sorry to sound angry, but I AM>>>>> I am also a medical professional, with decades of experience with human and animal medicine. This is not right and you are not helping — you just made some officials sign a paper.. congrats..

        I have spent a decade in Guatemela.. and you are helping how>? where? when?

        We could use you now.. we could have used you last month as well.. and the month before.. you helped SIX months ago and ….. crickets —

        but, i bet this helps the Humane Society get donations… we pay to save these animals out of OUR pocket.. care to spare some money for us???

        how about just some COMMITMENT.

        You can reach me anytime at —

  8. Donna Lysinger says:

    Hope justice is served to those that break the law & more than a slap on the wrist

  9. Myron Gochnauer says:

    How about giving us a link to text of the legislation? The devil is in the details (and their interpretation).

  10. Eric S says:

    Yeah Great– I was here for that, and here I am with a 3 nights of poisoning in the streets of San Pedro, just across the lake…

    There is a dog in MY yard this very moment dying from poison and it is AUGUST– SIX MONTHS LATER<

    So, it is NOW we are less than THREE weeks from another holiday here in Gaute– Sept 15th is Independance day.. The "leaders" here think they are cleaning up the streets to make it nice for the holiday..

    The dogs we find dead, HAVE COLLARS on.. they are OUR PETS..

    Since March, I have LOST 3 dogs due to poison in the streets.
    And we check our yard each morning BEFORE we let our dogs out in the yard, just in case…

    Please, I am tired of piling up dead dogs, treating sick one — when this is NOT needed.. these dogs are not aggressive and we make sure they have shots and are spayed/neutered-

    To see the current issue right NOW Aug 26th 2017

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