Taiwan toughens law after star hippo death

Taipei - Taiwanese authorities toughened animal cruelty laws on Friday in the wake of the death of a performing hippopotamus that once starred in a popular soap opera.

The new rules were drawn up after A Ho, a male hippo who regularly performed for spectators at a private zoo, died last month after breaking a leg and sustaining other injuries while being transported from the site.

The legislation, dubbed by the local media as the "A Ho clause", doubles the maximum fine for intentionally causing serious injury or death to animals to $32 200 in addition to up to one year in prison, officials said.

The two-tonne beast was apparently panicked when he jumped from a moving truck, crushing his diaphragm and breaking a leg, only to sustain further injuries the following day when he was crushed inside a container while returning home from medical treatment.

Television footage at the time showed the enormous animal lying on the road -- where it remained for several hours -- with white fluid oozing from its eyes after it leaped from the truck and bumped into a parked car.

The law also includes a fine of up to $5 000 if owners make animals perform or put them on display for entertainment purposes without prior permits.

They will also face a fine of up to $15 000 if they fail to provide animals with sufficient care, such as lack of water, food or living space.

The zoo's owner had come under intense criticism for being careless in transporting the animal and was being investigated for violating animal protection law.

A Ho was a star attraction at the zoo, in addition to making a guest appearance in popular Taiwanese soap opera It Started With a Kiss several years ago.


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