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This article is written by Aditi Aggarwal,  from Symbiosis Law School, Noida. The article aims to discuss the problem of animal health being neglected in India and the legal provisions available for the same along with international standards.


Ecocentrism is an environment-centred approach that promotes the belief that all species and life processes have moral value while anthropocentrism is a belief that value is human-centred, and all other existences are means to achieve human ends.

The Supreme Court in one of its landmark judgments held that all forms of animal life and concepts like humanism, speciesism, and compassion are included in the expanded meaning of the ‘right to life’ under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It also clarified that ecocentric principles as distinguished from anthropocentric principles are incorporated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960

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In another landmark case, it was observed that ecocentrism supports the protection of all life forms, not just those life forms that are valuable to humans or their needs, and emphasizes the fact that humans are only one of the many life forms on earth. The National Wildlife Action Plan and a centrally sponsored scheme (Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats) are centred on the principle of ecocentrism. Even after such great observations by the Apex Court, many animals and their health continue to get neglected by their keepers.

What qualifies as a neglect

Animal neglect is when the caretaker or owner of an animal fails to provide water, food shelter, or any veterinary care needed for survival. The neglect can be either intentional or unintentional, but the animal suffers terribly in any way. Long-term negligence can cause serious damage to health and even death.

When is an animal in a good state of welfare

World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)

India is a member of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), an international reference organization for animal health and welfare. In terms of animal welfare, in the case of Animal Welfare Board Of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors (2014) (referred to above), the definition given by OIE has been highlighted as per which an animal is in a good state of welfare (as shown by scientific evidence) if it is healthy, comfortable, well-fed, safe, capable of expressing innate behaviours, and does not suffer from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and suffering. 

Chapter 7.1.2 of OIE guidelines states five internationally recognized freedoms for animal welfare as freedom from/to:

  • Hunger or thirst;
  • Discomfort;
  • Pain, disease, or injury;
  • Express (most) normal behaviour; and
  • Fear and distress.

The said five freedoms are also called  “Brambells Five Freedoms” and were also a part of the Farm Welfare Council 2009 of the UK.

Regarding the welfare of aquatic animals, OIE has formulated international standards for the welfare of farmed fish (except ornamental species) in the Aquatic Code and advocates the use of treatment methods suitable for the biological characteristics of fish and a suitable environment to fulfil the needs of fishes.

Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare

Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare (UDAW) is a campaign led by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to ensure that the principles of animal welfare are recognized internationally. UDAW has received strong support from many countries, including India. It encourages countries to enact or enhance animal welfare legislation. It convinced corporations to preserve animals. It mobilizes proponents of animal welfare all across the world. It also gets people talking about and thinking about animal welfare. 

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 was passed to prevent the infliction of unnecessary suffering or pain on animals. Under Section 4 of the Act, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) was also established in 1962.

Section 11 of the Act

Section 11 of the Act mentions the acts which are cruel along with punishments for the same. This Section mentions three offences specifically related to neglecting the health of an animal:

  • Section 11(1)(h) of the Act mentions the offence of a person who is the owner of any animal failing to provide such animal with sufficient food, drink, or shelter.
  • Section 11(1)(i) of the Act mentions the offence of abandoning any animal without a reasonable cause in circumstances in which it would likely suffer pain by starvation or thirst.
  • Section 11(1)(j) of the Act mentions the offence of an owner willfully permitting any animal who is affected with an infectious or contagious disease or an owner permitting any disabled or diseased animal to die on any street without a reasonable excuse.

The first two clauses are non-cognizable offences while the third one is a cognizable and bailable offence. For all three offences, the punishment includes a fine extending up to fifty rupees but not less than ten rupees in case of the first offence, while for the second offence (if committed within three years of the first offence) fine may extend to hundred rupees, but it should not be less than twenty-five rupees or with imprisonment for a term extendable up to three months or both. 

The Delhi Police Act, 1978 gives special powers to the police to take action when an offence related to any animal is committed under subsection (1) of Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

Animal welfare board of India 

The Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body, was established under Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 in 1962. The board’s mandate is to promote animal welfare in general and in particular to protect animals from unnecessary suffering or pain. The Board also advises the Central Government, States, and Union Territories on the issues concerning animal welfare.

The board of directors is committed to strengthening the legislative framework and best practices to prevent unnecessary suffering to animals. Over the past 50 years, the board of directors have played a key role in increasing public awareness and sensitivity about the welfare of animals. 

What are the powers that a policeman can exercise when he sees the cruelty being done to animals

Section 34 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 establishes the general power of seizure to the police officer (above the rank of a constable) for examination. According to this Section, a police officer can produce an animal to the nearest Veterinary Officer or Magistrate for examination.

According to Section 35, if the offence comes under the PCA Act or it is the case of beating or overloading of animals, the police officer can seize and send the animals to infirmaries for their proper treatment and care until they are fit to be discharged. Animals sent to the infirmary for their care and treatment cannot be released unless the veterinarian issues a certificate of suitability for discharge. The cost of transporting the animal to the infirmary and the maintenance and treatment in the infirmary has to be borne by the owner of the animal. The Section also states that animals are to be detained and have to be produced before the magistrate. 

Can people who feed animals in their areas be stopped by the RWAs or Societies or neighbours under the law

Article 51A of the Constitution of India speaks about the duties of every citizen of India, one of which is to have compassion for living creatures. Thus, an animal lover is protected under the Constitution.

Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India gives every citizen the right to profession, occupation, trade, and business. Therefore, if someone’s occupation is to take care of animals, it is legal and he has the right to carry out that occupation.

Article 21 of the Constitution of India, a very vast right gives the right to personal life and liberty. Thus, if someone wants to feed and provide shelter to the dogs, he is free to do so. He has the same right to liberty that the law provides to every citizen of India. 

Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for the cognizable criminal offence of intimidation. According to this Section, anyone who intimidates or threatens any person taking care of dogs is liable for criminal intimidation.

However, above all laws and rights, there is a natural right, which is a universal right inherent in the essence of ethics and which depends on human behaviour or beliefs. Even if the government or society as a whole does not enforce it, it is a right that is claimed to exist. Dismissal is an individual right and is considered to exceed the authority of the government or international agency. Therefore, if there are any rights, there must be rights to freedom, because all other rights depend on it. It is the natural right of any individual to choose to love, care for, feed, and house dogs.

In a recent ruling issued by the Delhi High Court, the guidelines were issued by the Animal Welfare Commission of India and the municipality detailed the issues that individuals and families often face when adopting and feeding stray animals. The court stated that it is necessary to record that these people and families who adopt stray animals are making a great contribution to mankind, because they provide food and shelter to the municipality, as well as vaccinating and disinfecting them. 

Without the help of these people, no local municipality can successfully implement its ABC plan. The court went on to state that local police and municipalities not only should encourage adoption but also have an obligation to ensure the protection of those who take care of these animals, especially dogs in the community or neighbourhood. They were not subjected to any form of abuse. In the end, the court stated that everyone has the right to live the way they want, and society and the community need to recognize this.

Does practising phooka or doom dev amount to cruelty

Section 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 provides that if a person, to improve lactation practice the operation known as doon dev or phooka or any other operation including injection of any substance on a cow or any other milch animal which is injurious to health or permits the performance of such an operation or it is being done under his control, he would be compulsorily punishable with a fine extendable up to rupees one thousand or imprisonment for a term extendable up to two years or both. The Section also provides that the animal on which the operation would be performed would be forfeited to the Government.

Furthermore, if a police officer with a rank not lower than that of a deputy inspector has reason to believe that phooka or any other operation of the nature described in Section 12 has been or will be carried out on any animal within his jurisdiction, he has the right to enter any place where the animal exists and the animal can be detained and delivered to the veterinarian in charge of the area where the animal was detained for inspection.

Section 8 of The Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001

According to Section 8 of the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001 there are some general conditions for registration that need to be followed and while granting the registration, the prescribed authority may impose such terms and conditions.

General conditions

  • Every owner having ten or more performing animals shall appoint a veterinarian as a regular employee for the care, transport, and treatment of the animals. Such animals shall not be transported by road for more than eight hours continuously and it is to be ensured by the owner that proper water and food has been given to them, which cannot be suspended for compelling an animal to train or perform a trick. After transportation, retiring and feeding enclosures shall be provided to them.
  • Further, it has to be ensured by the owner that animals are not suffering from any pain that is unnecessary before, after, and during the exhibition or training. A sick and pregnant animal cannot be made to perform and animals shall be trained to perform according to their instinct. No loud noise shall be deliberately created near the animal and fire cannot be placed close to an animal that may frighten it. No animal including horses shall be held in close proximity while shooting scenes that involve explosives or other loud noises and burning fire or fire accidents shall also not be exposed to animals.
  • The artificial light under which the performing animal is exhibited shall not have an overall intensity of more than 500 LUX. The owner cannot subject such animals to any act which might kill or injure them.
  • Further, no tripping device, pitfalls, or wires shall be used for such animals along with this, the owner needs to ensure that no props like nails, splinters, spears, barbed wires, etc. are causing any injury to animals. Equines shall not be made to walk on hard surfaces without being shoed. Along with this, no animals shall be used in downhill slides or rodeo slide stops without proper skid and hock boots.
  • The owner must ensure that the animal is not used on a very smooth floor without the use of non-slip mats along with ensuring that large numbers of animals are not allowed to gather in a manner that could cause or cause the animal to tread. The owner must also ensure that animals are not coerced or instigated into fighting with other animals, and must also ensure that sedatives or tranquilliser or steroids or any other artificial or inserted enhancer are not administered into any animal, unless that an anesthesiologist perform anaesthesia for the treatment of injured or sick veterinarians (use of steroids shall be avoided as much as possible, provided that if there are no other options to use steroids, there is a veterinarian prescription support and the purchase of such steroids must come from officially authorized sources).
  • The owner shall ensure that animals are not transported, kept, or restricted to heights, lengths, or widths that do not comply with the Transport of Animal Rules, 1978, the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992, or under any other Act, rule, or order for this purpose.

Guidelines to be followed while shooting a film

The owner shall also ensure that the animal is not continuously used for excessive shooting without giving the animal enough rest when shooting the film, and if a snake is used, it shall not be required to ingest any substance or make it crawl over tar or any other. The heated surface must not be distorted for fighting. Along with this, it is to be ensured that animals while shooting films fighting scenes are not shot in any livestock breeding areas (including poultry areas) and that no birds are shown in the cage.

The owner must notify the competent authority at least four weeks in advance of the location, date, and time of the actual production of the movie that will use the animal. People who wish to transport horses from one place to another must comply with the following minimums Standards to improve the travel conditions and the safety of horses, namely:

  • No horse should be tethered in such a way that the movement of the head and neck during travel will be unnaturally restricted. 
  • All horses must be watered at least every four hours and provided an adequate ration of hay during the journey lasting more than eight hours.
  • During transportation, sufficient ventilation and free flow of fresh air must be ensured in the vehicle.
  • Preferably, a rubber mat shall be used on the floor instead of a straw bed. 
  • Horses shall not be transported within 24 hours after running.
  • When the travel time exceeds six hours, no horse shall be raced unless twenty-four hours have elapsed since completion of the travel.

Conditions for using the whip on animals

The owner has to ensure that a whip other than 2 shock-absorbing whips which have been scientifically tested to prove it will not cause weals, bruising, or other damage to the horse and is subject to the conditions that:

  • The whip must not have raised bindings, stitchings, seams, or flaps.
  • The whip can only be used by licensed riders.
  • The owner shall also ensure that the whip is used in quarters in either the forehand or backhand position or down the shoulder in the backhand position, or the whip above shoulder height.
  • The use of whips in the race shall not exceed 8 times.
  • Each horse shall be used immediately after the race and again after six hours, but within eight hours after the race, a veterinary inspection shall be carried out to check whether it is injured.
  • Horses should be placed in a stable of 12 feet X 12 feet. The stables should have adequate facilities for the horses to see each other and provide adequate ventilation and thermal insulation, as well as an environmentally friendly atmosphere. As far as possible: whenever it is used more than 8 times in a race, the authority shall negotiate with the horse racing authorities to determine whether the use of the whip more than the prescribed number of times is for any reason to protect the horse or rider from any accident. 

The Prevention of Cruelty to Draught And Pack Animals Rules, 1965

General conditions for use of draught and pack animals

Section 6 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965, lays down the general conditions for the use of draught and pack animals. 

No person is allowed to use any animal to pull any vehicle or carry any load:

  • For an average of more than nine hours a day. 
  • For more than continuous five hours without rest or break for the animal; 
  • In any area where the temperature exceeds 37 degrees C (99 degrees F) during the period between 12 noon and 3 p.m. According to this, it is illegal to use draught and pack animals in Chennai, North India, and all other places where the temperature remains routinely above 40 degrees Celsius in summer. 

Other relevant provisions

  • Section 7: According to this Section, animals have to be disengaged after work and thus, no person shall be allowed to continue to keep harnessing any animal used to pull vehicles after the purpose is over.
  • Section 8: This Section prohibits spiked bits and states that no person shall use any other sharp tackle or spiked stick or equipment which causes bruises, abrasions, severe pain, or swellings to the animal to drive or ride an animal or cause it to draw any vehicle or for controlling the animal.
  • Section 9: This Section states that a horse shall not be saddled in a way that harness rests directly on the withers of the animal because of which there being no sufficient clearance between the arch or the saddle and the withers. 

Powers provided to police officers

Section 11 of the law stipulates that if an animal is deemed overloaded by a police officer above the rank of a constable, it may require the owner of the animal or other persons in charge of the animal to bring it to the animal or the vehicle, or both to the weighbridge to determine the load’s weight which the animal has been or is drawing or carrying.

If the owner in charge of such an animal refuses to comply with the requirements, the police officer has the right to take the animals or vehicles or both to the weighbridge and get it weighted. Once any weight is determined following this rule, the owner or other person in charge of the animal shall receive a written statement signed by the police officer stating the weight thus determined and any other relevant information.

Case laws

Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre v. Union of India (2018)

In this case, the owners of elephants in Jaipur were forcing thirty-four sick and injured elephants to do work like ceremonial parades, marching in processions, and they were being decorated and painted. 

There were many issues raised in this case but the one relating to animal’s health was that ‘who are the authorities to regulate health, upkeep, and how the elephant is to be used.’ It was held in this case by the Apex Court under Section 11(1)(h) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 that strict action should be taken against the owners and keepers who have been forcing the elephants to work, going against the order of Rajasthan High Court and the order of rehabilitating them to a rescue centre was issued.

new legal draft

Animal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja and others (2014)

This has been a very controversial case that raised the issue of banning a game called ‘Jallikattu’ where Bulls were brought to the place of ritual and participants had to embrace the hump of the bull and try taming it bringing the bull to a halt. Many times the ban was put and stayed by the state courts and Apex court also.

Relating to the matter of health, it was observed by the Court that:

  • The bulls were not offered water, food, or shelter from the time they were forced to line up until the end of the event i.e. from 8 am to 2:30 pm. 
  • Even though water troughs were there at the area of registration and collection yards, none of the animals was offered water.
  • Bulls were so terrified that their only focus used to be on surviving at the event that they did not even drink water.
  • Many bulls even lied down and because of exhaustion and dehydration, became unable to stand up. Many people during the event used to beat, kick, and even bite the bulls to force them back to stand upon their feet.
  • The bulls were kept in stalls where they used to graze for many hours or eat a lot of feed and they used to loiter around chewing their cud before doing these activities again. 
  • The bulls, during the game, were not allowed to do any of the above activities and they would not do so because of fear and pain. 
  • No intake of water, food, and shade used to lead them to exhaustion and dehydration which often used to result in death or injuries.

The Court after observing all these points gave the verdict that it is a violation under Section 11(1)(h) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

Suggestions and the way ahead

The welfare legislation like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 is based on the idea of “​​animal ownership.” The Constitution of India deals with animals in a limited way and considers them through a welfare-based framework rather than a rights-based framework. The idea is not to grant rights to animals but to give humans an obligation to protect animals.

A positive step in this direction has been taken by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India which has submitted its proposals for the revision of the PCA Act, 1960 to the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). The 60-year-old Act has been proposed to be revised for the first time.

Some of the proposed amendments include:

  • The proposed amendments include replacing the pronoun “it” with “he” or “she” when referring to animals as a first step in identifying them as beings and sentient beings rather than objects. This has been proposed so that the law will be at least less species-discriminatory (I.e. less exploitation of animals) than it is now.
  • Other suggestions include increasing the penalty for cruelty to animals to between Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 100,000, and imprisonment for up to five years. For recognizable offences or second, unrecognizable offences, the organization also recommends confiscating the person’s animals and preventing him from keeping or working with other animals.


Mahatma Gandhi quoted that a nation’s greatness can be judged by the way it treats its animals. For India to become a developed country, it needs to focus on all of its human and non-human welfare and compassion towards them. The Constitution of India makes it the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.

The Delhi High Court emphasized in a recent case that although animals cannot speak, as a society, we must speak on their behalf. Animals should not suffer any pain or suffer from society or their owners. Any cruelty to animals brings them psychological pain. Animals have emotions, they breathe like us. Therefore, they also need food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical treatment, and self-determination.


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