Animal Welfare Laws in India: A Comprehensive Study

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Animal Welfare Laws

Written by: Gogula Madhavi Lakshmi


India, the seventh-largest country in the world, is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world containing four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. It is home to animals ranging from the Bengal Tigers to the Great Indian Rhinoceros and animal protection and welfare in the country has taken a prominent position over the recent years. Protection of animals is enshrined as a fundamental duty in the Indian Constitution and there exist several animal welfare legislations in India such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 at the Central level and cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition legislation at the State levels.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 is the official criminal code of India which covers all substantive aspects of criminal law. Section 428 and 429 of the IPC provides for punishment of all acts of cruelty such as killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless animals. The aforementioned legislation has been enacted to obviate unnecessary pain and suffering of animals and similar legislations continue to be enacted according to changing circumstances. Notwithstanding specific statutes, further protections for animals lie under general concepts such as tort law, constitutional law, etc. Animal welfare includes all aspects of animal wellbeing. More prominently it seeks to address five major freedoms for proper animal welfare. The five freedoms are

  • Nutrition: Freedom from thirst and hunger
  • Environment: Freedom from discomfort by providing appropriate shelter
  • Health: Freedom from injury and disease by providing proper treatment
  • Behavior: Freedom to express their own kind by providing proper facilities
  • Mental state: Freedom from fear and mental suffering.

The Constitution of India 1960

Under the Constitution of India, various Articles were made to protect and preserve the rights of animals in India.

Part IV of the constitution states The Directive Principles of State Policy, under which Article 48 states, organization of agriculture and animal husbandry, which empowers the state to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall also preserve the breeds and prohibit the slaughtering of cows and calves and other milch and draught animals.[1] Article 48A declares Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forest and wildlife and states that the state shall make effort in protecting and safeguarding the environment the forest, and the wildlife.[2] 

Part IVA of the Constitution declares Fundamental Duties of every citizen of India, which imposes a duty on the citizens under Article 51A (g) to protect and improve the natural environment.[3] The Constitution of India also imposes a power on the parliament and the legislatures of states under Article 246 read with the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution to make laws for the prevention of cruelty to animals and for the protection of wild animals and birds.[4] Under Article 243G read with Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution empowers the Panchayat to make laws on Animal husbandry, dairying and poultry[5] Article 243W read with Twelfth Schedule of the Constitution, makes provisions for the Municipalities to make laws for cattle pounds and for the prevention of cruelty to animals.[6]

Indian Penal Code, 1860[7]

Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, provides punishment for committing mischief by killing or maiming any animal of the value of 10 rupees with imprisonment for two years or with a fine or with both. 

Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, deals with the punishment for killing or maiming any described animal of any value or of the value of 50 rupees or upwards with the imprisonment of five years or with fine or with both.

Prevention of Cruelty To Animals Act, 1960[8]

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 was enacted to prevent the infliction of unnecessary harm and cruelty to animals. It is animal-specific legislation.
It also makes provisions for prohibiting and preventing any person from engaging any animal in any kind of fighting or shooting competition. The Act makes it obligatory for the owner of an animal to provide sufficient food, shelter, and care to them.

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972[9]

It was enacted with the objective to protect and preserve the wildlife animals and prevent the illegal trade and smuggling of wildlife animals. It also provides protection to the endangered species of the planet. Convention on Migrating Species (CMS) is an environmental treaty of the United Nations that provides a platform for the protection and conservation of migrating animals and their habitats. India is a party to this treaty and is going to organize the 13th CMS conference in India.[10]

Judicial Pronouncements Apart from various legislations and treaties, our judiciary also plays an active role in the protection and preservation of animal rights and welfare in India. The judicial activism on animal protection is as below Animal Welfare Board of India vs. Nagaraja & Ors. [11]

In this case, the Honorable Supreme Court of India ruled in favour of the Animal welfare Board and imposes a ban on Jallikattu. It also held that Article 51A(g) of the constitution of India is the Magna Carta of animal rights in India, and also extends the right to life under Article 21 of the constitution, to every living being including animals. Abdul Hakim Qureshi vs. State of Bihar [12].

The Honorable Supreme Court held that a complete ban on cows did not infringe any religious freedom of Muslims. Article 48 of the constitution only applies to cows, calves, and other animals which have the potential of yielding milk or have the capacity to work in drought and not all cows or cattle.

People For Ethical Treatment of Animals Vs. Union of India [13]The Bombay High Court stated that any film wishing to use an animal needs to obtain a No objection certificate (NOC) from the Animal Welfare Board of India. N.R Nair and Ors vs. Union of India[14]The court held that legal rights under the constitution are not limited to humans only, it extends to animals also. Gauri Maulekhi vs. State of Uttarkhand and Ors.[15] 

The court held that unnecessary pain and suffering cannot be inflicted on an animal even for the purpose of consumption. It violates the provisions of section 11(3) (e) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Karnail Singh and others vs. State of Haryana[16] The Punjab and Haryana High Court recognized all animals as legal entities and also declared that the citizens of Haryana as persons in Loco Parentis (in place of a parent). The court also states that legal personhood is not limited to human beings.

Legislations for protecting animal rights

A recent Writ Petition has been filed in the Supreme Court of India regarding the mishaps in the State of Kerala viz. the killings of elephants in Palakkad whereby the petitioner has suggested framing of a Special Investigation Team under retired Supreme Court judge or CBI to probe into the matter and take out the investigation expeditiously.

The point here to be noted is why one has the need to file a PIL where there are already many legislations enacted for such purpose. It aims, surely, at the lack of implementation of these laws or the applicability of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred as “FRA, 2006” and which has done more harm than good. 

This human-animal conflict gives rise to a number of problems, such as sometimes innocent people being killed at the hands of these wild animals and vice-versa. This human-animal conflict began as an effect of the depletion of forest cover or natural habitat of wild animals due to an increase in various industrialist activities as well as population burst.  It is a fundamental duty of every citizen under Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution of India, 1950 to protect wildlife and have compassion for all living creatures.

Moreover, Article 48A poses a duty on the state to protect, safeguard and improve the forests and wildlife of the country. There are various powers, authorities, and duties granted to centres, states, and panchayats under the scheme of wildlife protection.

Laws Relating To Street Animals

  • Killing, maiming, poisoning or rendering useless of any animal is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years or with fine or with both, under Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Under Section 429 of the Code, the term is 5 years and is applicable when the cost of the animal is above 50 Rs.
  • Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides that if any person allows, or himself beats, kicks or tortures, in any way, any animal subjecting it to unnecessary pain and suffering will be liable to pay a fine of upto 50 Rs. In case of repetition of the offence, the fine will increase or an imprisonment for 3 months will be granted.
  • The Animal Protection (Dogs) Rules, 2001 provide for rules relating to pet and street dogs.

Laws Relating To Work Animals/Cattle

Chapter III of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act deals with “Cruelty to animals generally” According to Section 11, the following acts are punishable by fines up to Rs. 25-100 and a maximum of three months of imprisonment on the repetition of the said acts.

  • Anybody who employs any unfit animal, suffering from wound, infirmity, sores or an animal of an old age, to work. Section 11 (b)
  • Anybody who carriesany animal subjecting it to pain or suffering. Section 11 (d)
  • Keeps an animal in a cage or any other such confinement which is not sufficiently big enough as to let the animal move freely. Section 11 (e)
  • Any owner of an animal who allows his animal, affected with a contagious or infectious disease to die in any street. Section 11 (j)
  • Any person who offers for sale an animal that is suffering from pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or ill-treatment. Section 11 (k)
  • In October 2014, non binding guidelines called National Code of Practices for Management of Dairy Animals in India were released by the government in consultation with an NGO named World Animal Protection.

Laws relating to wild animals

The chief laws relating to wildlife in India are found in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Act prohibits the killing, poaching, trapping, poisoning, or harming in any other way, of any wild animal or bird.  It also provides for the establishment of Wildlife Advisory Boards in every State.

  • According to Section 2 (37) of the act, wildlife includes any animal, aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat, thus making the definition a wide and inclusive one.
  • Section 9 of the Act prohibits the hunting of any wild animal  (animals specified in Schedule 1, 2, 3 and 4) and punishes the offense with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3years or with fine which may extend to Rs. 25,000/- or with both.
  • The Act allows the Central and State Government to declare any area ‘restricted’ as a wildlife sanctuary, national park etc.  Carrying out any industrial activity in these areas is prohibited under the Act.
  • Section 48A of the Act prohibits transportation of any wild animal, bird or plants except with the permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden or any other official authorized by the State Government.
  • Section 49 prohibits the purchase without license of wild animals from dealers.

Laws relating to aquatic animals

The Wildlife Protection Act is applicable to aquatic animals too. Protection of marine species in India is done through the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPA).

  • Schedule 1-4 of the Wildlife Protection Act provides a list of all the protected marine species, for e.g. seahorse, giant grouper, hermatypic corals, organ pipe, fire coral, sea fans, etc.
  • Schedule III protects all species of sponges and Schedule IV comprises of a wide variety of mollusks.
  • Dolphins have been recognized as the national aquatic animal of India and find themselves placed in Schedule I. India has banned use of dolphins for commercial entertainment, thereby placing a ban on establishment of any ‘dolphinarium’ in the country.

Laws relating to birds

Birds, too, are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (WLPA) and in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA), along with land and aquatic animals.

  • Section 11 (o) of the PCAA provides for punishment of any person who promotes or himself takes part in any shooting match/competition where animals are released from captivity for shooting.
  • Under Section 16 (c) of the WLPA, it is unlawful to injure or destroy wild birds, reptiles, etc. or damaging or disturbing their eggs or nests. The person who is found guilty of any of this can be punished for up to 7 years in jail and be made to pay a fine of upto Rs 25,000.

Laws Relating To Zoo Animals

Laws relating to zoo animals are also found in The Wildlife Protection Act.

  • Section 38A of the Act provides for establishment of a Central Zoo Authority by the Central Government, which has the following functions:
  • Specifying the minimum standards for keeping of animals inside the zoo.
  • Recognize or derecognize zoos.
  • Recognize endangered species and assign responsibilities to zoos for their captive breeding, etc.
  • According to Section 38 H, no zoo is allowed to function in India without recognition of the Central Zoo Authority.
  • The CZA provides the guidelines that are necessary for Establishment & Scientific Management of Zoos in India. These include rules like providing sufficient area, healthcare, freedom of movement, a naturalistic environment to the animals, etc.

Laws Relating To Pets

A lot of laws relating to pets are found in Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The punishment, as mentioned above, for any of these offences is up to Rs 100, and three months imprisonment in case of repetition of the offence.

  • Any person, who is the owner of an animal, negligently or intentionally chains a dog in close confinement, habitually
  • Any owner who fails to provide his animal with sufficient food, drink or shelter- Section 11 (h)
  • Any person who, without any reasonable cause, abandons an animal in such a situation where the animal is bound to suffer pain due to starvation or thirst- Section 11 (i)
  • Any owner of an animal who consciously allows an infected, diseased or disabled animal to go into any street without any permit or leave the animal to die in any street- Section 11 (j)
  • Any person intimidating another person and preventing him/her, who is the owner of a pet, from keeping or taking care of his/her pet can be held liable under Section 503 of the IPC.

Laws Relating To Animals Used For The Purpose Of Entertainment

  • No animal can be used for the purpose of entertainment except without registering under The Performing Animals Rules, 1973.
  • Chapter V of the PCAA deals with performing animals.
  • Section 26 of the PCAA provides for punishment for any person who uses any animal for the purposes of entertainment/performance with a fine of up to Rs 500 or with an imprisonment of up to three months or with both.

Laws Relating To Testing Or Experiment On Animals

Millions of animals, especially white mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, monkeys, etc. are used for experimentation all over the world, and suffer and die with great pain in this process. The use of animals for experimentation in the cosmetic industry amounts to grave cruelty.

  • Through the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules (Second Amendment) 2014, animal testing for cosmetic products was prohibited all over India.
  • Any person who violates the Act is liable for punishment for a term which may extend from 3 to 10 years or shall be liable for a fine which could be Rs.500 to Rs.10,000 or both.
  • According to Rule 135B of the Drugs and Cosmetic (Fifth Amendment) Rules 2014, no cosmetic that has been tested on animals shall be imported into the country.
  • A committee, established under the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act–The Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) released the Breeding of and Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1998 (amended in 2001 and 2006) that regulate the experimentation on animals.
  • Dissecting and experimenting on animals in schools and colleges is banned in India, under the PCCA.


The 42nd Amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1976 was a progressive step towards laying the groundwork for animal protection in India. The constitutional provisions establishing the duty of animal protection have resulted in the enactment of animal protection legislation both at the central and state level, most notable of which is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. Furthermore, over the years Indian courts have developed a growing legal jurisprudence in animal law.

However, there is still a long way to go in truly developing a solid foundation for animal law in India. The provisions for animal protection in the Indian Constitution remain principles instead of concrete law enforceable in courts. The penalties under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 for cruelty against animals are simply not strict enough to truly deter crimes against animals. The law is not strictly enforced and contains several provisions which provide leeway through which liability can be escaped. Extensive reforms need to take place in this regard to provide a stronger animal protection law for India.


[1] The Constitution Of India, art. 48

[2] The Constitution Of India, art. 48A

[3] Art. 51A(g)

[4] art 246, Seventh schedule.

[5] art. 243G , Eleventh Schedule

[6] art. 243W , Twelfth Schedule

[7] Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act No. 45 Of 1860)

[8] Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals Act, 1960, (Act No. 59 of 1960)

[9] The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (Act No. 53 of 1972)

[10] By Om Marathe, February 18, 2020, Explained: What is the Convention on Migratory Species and how does it matter to India?, available at:,together%20we%20welcome%20them%20home%E2%80%9D. (last visited on: sept 20, 2020)

[11] Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, (2014) 7 SCC 547

[12] Abdul Hakim Qureshi vs. State of Bihar (1961) AIR 448 (1961) SCR (2) 610

[13] People for Ethical Treatment of Animals vs. Union of India Writ Petition (PIL) (Lodging) No. 2490 of 2004.

[14] N.R Nair and Ors vs. Union of India. (2001) 6 SCC 84

[15] Gauri Maulekhi vs. State of Uttarkhand and Ors. Writ Petition (PIL) No. 77 of 2010

[16] Karnail Singh and others vs. State of Haryana. CRR-533-2013

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