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This article is written by Ankita Jangid from Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan. This article deals with the various laws for the protection of animals in India. 


India is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world and consists of 2.4 % of the world’s land area that accounts for 7-8% of all recorded species including 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. It is a home of many animal species ranging from Bengal tigers to the Great Indian rhinoceros. Animal species are considered essential components of the environment. They serve many purposes like domestication and act as workers and resources that help humans to a great extent. 

Animals are also essential for maintaining the ecological balance on the earth. In recent years, the protection and welfare of animals have taken a prominent place in the country. Every year billions of animals are exploited by humans for their benefits and put them in a position to suffer harm and pain. Various legislation such as the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960, and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 are there to protect the animal life on earth. The constitution of India has also recognized the sanctity of animal life and laid down protection and treatment of animals with dignity as a fundamental duty of the citizens of India. This article will focus on the various legislation and laws for the protection of wildlife. 

Historical background of animal laws in India

In Indian culture, animals have always been an entrenched part of the ethos of this culture which consists of several species of both domesticated and wild being cherished and worshipped. Animals are considered as the creation of “The Almighty” and also a deep sense of respect, love to the almighty with his extended creations on earth like trees, forests, rivers, mountains, etc. There exists a universal concept of harmony between humans, animals, and the environment that become a part of the spiritual life of its people. Still, there are many places where people have worshipped animals because they believe that animals act as a messenger of God for them. 

Different kinds of attitudes are shown by humans towards animals in different eras. Vedas (the first scriptures of Hinduism) teaches ahimsa and non-violence towards all living organisms. Similarly in Jainism and Buddhism, the practice of vegetarianism and avoiding killing animals have followed to a great extent. Despite this, meat-eating was still common in ancient times. 

The  Britishers also showed their concern for the rights of animals. The first Indian society was founded by Briton Colesworthy for the prevention of cruelty to animals in 1861 in Calcutta. After this many movements arose in the late 1800s in northern parts of India against the slaughter of cattle. 

After independence, the first animal welfare law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, criminalizes cruelty against animals. The Act also contains provisions for scientific experiments.

Various legislation for protecting animal rights

A lot of provisions were enacted by the government of India to safeguard the interest of animals. Animal welfare and the protection of animals have been given utmost importance by the legislature as animals are voiceless, they cannot express their feelings, and it is crucial to support animal rights just like how human rights are supported. Various legislation to protect animal rights are discussed below:

The Constitution of India, 1960 

India is one of the many countries that have animal welfare laws that are drafted with the necessary provisions relating to the protection and safeguarding of the interest of animals’ rights. The Constitution of India as supreme law of the land also deals with the protection of rights of animals under the ambit of Fundamental duties and the Directive principle of state policy. Under Article 21 of the Constitution, the expression ‘life’ has been expanded to include all forms of life including animal life which is essential for human life. Moreover, the Right to Dignity and fair treatment is also significant to animal rights.

Article 48 A states that the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the country’s forests and wildlife. 

Article 51 A (g) states that every citizen has a fundamental duty to safeguard and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and animals as well as to have compassion for living creatures.

The above Constitutional provisions were introduced by the 42nd amendment in 1976. These provisions are not directly enforceable by courts but provide a base for legislation, policies, and laws in further animal protection at the central and state levels. 

The concurrent list (Seventh Schedule) of the Indian Constitution gives power to central and state to make laws on: 

  • Prevention of cruelty to animals
  • Protection of wild animals and birds 

The Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was enacted by Parliament in the year of 1960. The Act’s objective is to prevent the infliction of pain or suffering on animals and amend the laws related to the prevention of cruelty to animals. The word ‘animal’ is defined as ‘any living creature other than a human being’. The most significant part of the Act is given under chapter II which prescribes the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board of India to protect animals from being subjected to unnecessary pain. The AWBI performs the following functions: 

  • To advise the central government regarding amendments and rules to prevent unnecessary pain while storing animals for experiments, transporting animals, etc.
  • To encourage financial assistance, animal shelters, and rescue homes for old animals.
  • To advise the government on medical care and assistance for animal hospitals.
  • Imparting education and awareness on animal welfare using books, lectures, posters, advertisements.
  • To advise the central government regarding the general matters on animal welfare.

Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty Act, provides different variants of cruelty to animals that are:

  1. Beating, kicking, overloading, torturing and causing unnecessary injury, harm to any animal;
  2. Employing any animal having any disease or unfit to be so employed;
  3. Administered any injurious drug or substance wilfully or unreasonably to any animal;
  4. Conveying or carrying either in or upon any vehicle in such a way as to subject it to suffering;
  5. Confining any animal in any cage or receptacle which does not measure property in height, length, and breadth to permit the animal a reasonable opportunity for move;
  6. Keeping an animal for an unreasonable time in any heavy chained or chord;
  7. Being an owner fails to provide the animal with sufficient food, water, and shelter;
  8. Abandoning an animal without any reasonable care;
  9. Wilfully permitting an owned animal to roam on streets or leaving it on the streets to die of disease or disability;
  10. Offering an animal for sale which is suffering from pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, or other ill-treatment without any reasonable cause;
  11. Mutilated or killing any animal by using the methods of strychnine injections; 
  12. Using an animal as bait for another animal solely for entertainment;
  13. Organizing, keeping, or managing any place for animal fighting;
  14. Promotes or takes part in any competition wherein the animals are released from captivity for shooting.

However,  the Act does not consider cruelty on animals if-

  • Dehorning of cattle, castration, or branding of any animal done in a prescribed manner
  • Destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers done in a prescribed manner 
  • Extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law

If a person committing any acts as mentioned in Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act,1960 shall be punishable, 

  • In case of a first offense, with a fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees, and ;
  • In case of a subsequent offense committed within 3 years of the previous offense, with a fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to, one hundred rupees with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or both.

The Wildlife Protection Act,1972

In India, the primary laws related to wildlife are found in the Wildlife Protection Act,1972. The Act prohibits the killing, trapping, poaching, poisoning, or harming of any wild animal or bird. This Act is the first legislation that provides a broad list of endangered wildlife species. The provision of this Act applies to various states and regions. It also provides the establishment of wildlife advisory boards for the protection of wildlife in every state to tackle the situation. The provisions for the protection of aquatic life (marine animals), birds, and zoo animals are also covered under the Act. The definition of wildlife under the Act includes any animal, aquatic, or land vegetation that forms part of any habitat. 

  • The Act provides the establishment of welfare advisory boards (Section 6) and various duties of the boards (Section 8). 
  • Hunting includes poisoning, killing, trapping any wild animals, or attempting to do so. Carrying or driving any animal for transport purposes that cause injury to any animals or on their body parts, killing the eggs of the reptiles and birds, or disturbing their nest or eggs of the birds and reptiles are such activities that fall under the ambit of hunting. The Act prohibits the hunting of any wild animal specified in schedules I, II, and III (Section 9). Furthermore, the Act permits the hunting of wild animals in certain cases as provided in Section 11
  • The Act allows the Center and State governments to declare any area ‘restricted’ for the wildlife sanctuary, National park, etc. 
  • Further, the Act prohibits the transportation of any wild animals, birds, plants except in the cases where permission is taken from the chief wildlife warden or any official authorized by the state government (Section 48 A)
  • The purchasing of wild animals from dealers without a license is prohibited under Section 49 of the Act. 

The Indian Penal Code,1860

Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code provides legal penalty for the offenses related to maiming and killing of animals. Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code provides punishment for misconduct of killing or maiming an animal for the value of ten rupees or more. It states that ‘whoever commits the offense of killing, maiming, poisoning, or rendering useless any animal for the rupees of ten or more than shall be punished with the imprisonment for up to ten years or with fine or both. While Section 429 of the Code deals with the penalty for the same offense, but concerning animals worth 50 rupees or upwards. The offense shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years or with a fine or both.

Various Rules related to the protection of animals 

  • The Prevention to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001: Certain provisions are provided under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 named as Slaughter House rules, 2001. The Act defines the ‘slaughter’ as the killing of any animal for food and ‘slaughter house’ as a place where 10 or more than 10 animals are slaughtered per day and is duly licensed under a Central or State or Provincial Act or any rules and regulations made thereunder. Section 3 (2) of the Act prohibits slaughtering any animal which is pregnant, has an offspring of fewer than three months, is under the age of three months, or has not been certified by a veterinary doctor. Slaughtering of animals in slums areas, roadside meat shops or in dhabas, or private houses is prohibited. Further, the Act provides the basic requirements for a slaughterhouse.
  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965: The Rules contain the provisions for the prevention and protection of animals from unnecessary pain, cruelty, torture when used to draw carriages and loaded with packs and people. Small buffaloes/bullocks, ponies, horses or mules, camels are used to carry vehicles according to the general conditions as specified in Section 6 of the Act.  The Act also provides the rules for the use of draught and pack animals and the maximum load permitted on draught and pack animals. 
  • The Transport of Animals Rules,1978: The rules provide the general conditions for the transport of animals, that is, they should be in good condition, fit for transportation. Pregnant, diseased, or young animals must be separated from other animals during transportation. Overloading of animals amounts to treating an animal cruelly under the provision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. 
  • The Animal Protection (Dogs) Rules, 2001: These provide the rules relating to pets and street dogs. 
  • The Performing Animals Rules, 1973: A performing animal means an animal that is used for entertainment through which the public are admitted through sales of tickets. No animal can be used for entertainment purposes until registration is done under the Act. 

United kingdom

In the United Kingdom, animal welfare is different from animal conservation. The latest Animal Welfare Legislation in both Wales and England is the Animal welfare Act of 2006. The Act also mandates the duty of care towards pet animals by their owners to provide them with necessary basic needs. This Act provides strict punishment of a 51-week maximum jail term with fines of £20,000 for the offense of cruelty and negligence of animals. 


Austria is one of the best countries when it comes to animal welfare. The Austrian Animal Welfare Act, 2004 suggests that the protection of the animal should be held to a value equal to humankind. The Act prohibits unnecessary pain, suffering, exposure to heavy fear, and injury to animals except hunting and fishing. The Act also restricted the use of wild animals in circuses and prohibits fur farming. Later on, the country banned the use of chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans for experiments.

New Zealand

The rights of animals are protected under the Animal Welfare Act (1999) and the Animal Welfare Strategy (2013). The Acts state that animals are sentient. This legislation emphasizes the global position of New Zealand and wishes to maintain progressive stances in scientific and technological advances regarding animal welfare. 


Switzerland is a leader which improves the living and working conditions of animals. It became the first country to constitutionally recognize animals to validate the protection of ‘the dignity of the creature’. Activities that degrade the dignity of animals are prohibited under Animal Welfare Act. Various other provisions that are considered insufficient are illegalizing the stopping a dog barking and ordering the owners of the pet to attend classes to learn to take care of their pets has been undertaken by this country. 


Sweden penalizes any cruelty to animals due to negligence or with intention as per the penal code of the country, such protections apply to both domestic and wild animals. The Animals Welfare Act, 1988 provides that animals must be protected from unnecessary pain or suffering, diseases and to be treated well. The Act also includes the basic requirements for animals like food, water, care, and sufficient space. 

Various judicial interpretations 

The judiciary of India has played a major role relating to the enforcement and applicability of laws that protect animal rights. The Indian judiciary stood up for this cause and ensured that animals are not subjected to cruelty by humans. Animal rights are supported by the judiciary and legislature in the same way as human rights because it is quite necessary to protect and safeguard animals from offensive treatment, confinement, and cruelty which they may be prone to suffer at the hands of human beings. The court has played an important role by protecting the rights of animals and securing the environment. 

Animal Welfare Board v. A. Nagaraja & Ors (2014) 

In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Animal Welfare Board (AWBI). The court also held that Article 51A (g) of the Constitution of India is the Magna Carta of Animal Rights which also extends to the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, to every living being including animals. 

State of Bihar v. Murad Ali Baig (1989)

In this case, the Court dealt with the hunting of elephants. The question before the court was whether the hunting of elephants is justified under the provisions of the Indian penal code and the Wildlife Protection Act. The Court further deals with Sec. 10 and 11 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 that provides schedules. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that since the elephant was an animal under the list of animals provided under Schedule 1, the hunting of elephants is prohibited. 

Further, the Court observed that the offense of hunting as defined in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is not the same as the offense provided under Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The ingredients of the offense under the Wildlife Protection Act and the Indian Penal Code are quite contrary. Hence the two offenses are not the same. 

Naveen Raheja v. Union of India (2001)

In this case, the issue arose relating to the skinning of a tiger in a zoo in Andhra Pradesh. The Court was in utter shock when they heard the facts of the case. The tiger received no protection from whose duty it was to protect and safeguard them. The Apex Court viewed that it was extremely necessary to call the chairperson of the central zoo authority to present before the court and to elucidate the measures being taken to protect and preserve the tiger species in zoos and reserved forests. The Court then passed the orders with regards to the protection of tigers. 

Shri Sachidanand Pandey & another v. the State of West Bengal & Ors (1987)

The Supreme Court held that any person disturbing the lives of animals in the premises of the zoo will be held liable and punishable with imprisonment of up to seven years or a fine up to Rs. 25000 or both. 

Gauri Maulekhi v. Union of India, Writ petition (PIL) No.77 of 2010

This case deals with the matter of illegal exportation of cattle and buffaloes from India to Nepal for a religious festival. In Nepal, the Gandhimi Festival is celebrated every five years and there is a tradition to sacrifice animals (buffaloes, rats, pigs, goats, bats, etc.) to fulfill their wishes. This festival is regarded as one of the world’s largest sacrifices ever. For this Gandhimi Festival, a huge number of animals were usually exported from India. The Supreme Court in the said matter opined that unnecessary pain or suffering cannot be inflicted upon any non-human living beings simply to satisfy the desires of human beings. It was also held by the court that sacrificing an animal can by no means be deemed to be regarded as a way to appease Gods. Further, the Court directed the Central Government of India to ensure that no cattle and buffaloes are transported illegally to Nepal. And to make changes in the export and import policy. 

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Union of India (2004)

In this case, the Bombay High Court ruled that any film wishing to use animals needs to obtain a No objection certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India. This ruling ensures a better safeguard to the animals during the course of filmmaking. The ruling thus prevents animals from other abusive activities like being exposed to loud, strange sounds, beaten or kept without food and water. 


India is a country with a diversified culture. It has several wildlife conservation programs that give the utmost importance to environmental protection. Environmental conservation and the protection of wildlife have been deeply rooted in Indian culture. Various legislation was enActed with regards to the protection and conservation of animals. The provisions were specifically designed to recognize the rights of the animals with the rights guaranteed to humans. 

Hence we can easily conclude that there is no inadequacy of laws for safeguarding the interest of animals. However, the main problem is the lack of implementation and administration of these laws. There does not exist strict enforcement of laws with the ever-increasing conflicts arising between animals and humans. Regardless of this, the Indian judiciary has done a great job in dealing with the gaps that exist in animal welfare laws and timely protected the rights of animals.


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