Taiwan’s legislature passed a legal amendment on Tuesday banning the consumption of cat and dog meat.
The amendments to the Animal Protection Act state that offenders can be punished with a monetary fine of NTD 50,000 to 250,000 (HK$13,000 to HK$63,000), Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.
The island banned the sale of dog and cat meat or organs – or products containing these ingredients – in 2001.
Tuesday’s Legislative Yuan amendments raised the penalty for such crimes to a maximum of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of NTD 2 million (HK$501,000). The names, photographs and crimes of convicted defendants may also be publicised.
Other amendments passed by the legislature include a ban on “walking” pets chained using leashes while owners ride on motor vehicles.
Before Tuesday, only certain local governments in Taiwan banned the consumption of dog and cat meat.
The amendments were proposed by opposition Kuomintang legislator Wang Yu-min, who called their approval a “birthday present” – she was born on April 11, 1974.
According to online outlet Storm Media, she proposed the amendments in response to a number of high-profile incidents of animal abuse. She said that the previous penalties were not sufficient as deterrents.
Last October, Chan Ho-yeung – a student from Macau studying in Taiwan – was sentenced to 10 months in prison after being convicted of killing two stray cats.
His acts prompted an uproar in Taiwan, and animal rights activists were filmed attacking him as he attended trial at the Taipei District Court.
In Hong Kong, the slaughter of dogs and cats for consumption is illegal under the 1950 Dogs and Cats Regulations.
Dog and cat meat is not legally prohibited in mainland China, where the Yulin Dog Meat Festival is set to take place in June.
Correction 12/04: This report previously stated that Taiwan was the first Asian country to ban the consumption of dog/cat meat. However, Hong Kong bans the slaughter, sale and use of dogs and cats for food.