By Mary Taruvinga
THE Gweru City council has been barred from killing stray domestic animals, among them donkeys which the authority boldly gunned down even in the presence of their owners.
High Court judge, Justice Benjamin Chikowero delivered the ruling after Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approached the court seeking Gweru City Council to rescind its decision to kill stray donkeys in its area.
The local authority had initiated a shoot to kill policy on the animals, despite having agreed in June last year to trap the animals instead of killing them.
Chikowero ruled that the animal rights group should however ensure that it takes custody of the stray animals and also ensure that there were no stray animals in Gweru urban area.
“Whereupon, after reading documents filed of record, it is ordered by consent that: The first respondent (Gweru City Council)’s actions in killing stray donkeys within the Gweru Urban area without complying with the provisions of the Stock Trespass Act (Chapter 19:14) and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (Chapter 19:09), be and is hereby declared unlawful. The first respondent be and is hereby interdicted from killing the donkeys found in its urban areas,” Chikowero ruled.
Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had argued in its application that the acts of killing the animals by the Gweru City Council were illegal.
Local government minister, July Moyo was cited as the second respondent in the court application.
The animal rights group also complained that the decision to kill the animals was contrary to laws that protect the lives and welfare of animals and the laws that provide for the procedure of dealing with stray animals.
“The act, thus prompted the applicant to file the current application before the court seeking a relief against the first respondent,” the organisation said.
However, the Gweru City Council said it derived its powers to kill the stray animals from the Urban Council Act.
“Under these powers, council through by-laws and special resolutions ordered that stray animals especially dogs and donkeys in urban areas were to be shot and killed. The first respondent is engaging in a lawful process for the protection of the people and property of rate payers. The law has not been set aside and it is still operational. The applicant is seeking to repeal an Act of Parliament by means of an application,” the council had argued.
The council further said it had a mandate to safeguard residents and their property, claiming the donkeys were spreading diseases.