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This Article is written by Arkadyuti Sarkar, a student of B.A. LL.B from the Shyambazar Law College, under the University of Calcutta. This article elaborately analyzes and discusses the various provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1961. 


Animals, similar to human beings, have the capability of comprehending physical and mental pain. Therefore, they can understand the severity of any physical or mental harm that is inflicted on them. This earth belongs to them as much as it belongs to us human beings. Thus, it is imperative that other living creatures are allowed to live and thrive just like us.

With this vision, the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 was passed; purporting to punish severely the persons indulging in cruelty against the animals, the establishment of an animal welfare board, identifying the acts amounting to cruelty against the animals, etc.

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So, let us now analyze the different provisions which are enshrined under this act.

Salient features of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1961

  1. This act provides for punishment for causing unnecessary cruelty and suffering to animals.
  2. This act defines animals and different forms of animals.
  3. This Act enshrines the provisions relating to the establishment of an animal welfare board, its constitution, powers, and functions.
  4. This act discusses different forms of cruelty, exceptions, and killing of a suffering animal in case any cruelty has been committed against it, so as to relieve it from further suffering.
  5. This act provides the guidelines relating to experimentation on animals for scientific purposes.
  6. This act enshrines the provisions relating to the exhibition of the performing animals, and offences committed against the performing animals.
  7. This Act provides for the limitation period of 3 months beyond which no prosecution shall lie for any offences under this Act. 


According to Section 2(a) of this Act; animal refers to any living creature excluding a human being. Therefore, this definition is comprehensive and exhaustive. For animals, it refers not solely to mammals, but also includes birds, reptiles, etc.

Illustration: tiger, deers, cheetah, dogs, cats, buffaloes, snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles, elephants, etc.

Domestic Animal

This enactment also speaks about domestic animals. According to Section 2(d) of this Act; any tamed or sufficiently tamed animal purporting to serve some useful purpose of man is considered as a domestic animal. Also, it includes which has partly or wholly become tamed although it is or has not been intended to be tamed.

Captive Animal

According to Section 2(c) of this Act; any animal (except a domestic animal), which is under either temporary or permanent captivity or confinement, or is subjected to any appliance or machine preventing its escape from such captivity or confinement, or which is pinioned or has a maimed appearance.

Thus this provision has the following essentials for deeming an animal as a captive animal:

  1. Such animal should not be a domestic animal;
  2. Such captivity or confinement is either temporary or permanent;
  3. For preventing or restricting the animal to escape from captivity/confinement, it has been subjected to any form of appliance or contrivance; or
  4. Such an animal has been pinned down by someone or something or has been deliberately injured for preventing its escape from the captivity/confinement.
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Animal Welfare Board

Section 4 to 10 of this Act enshrines the provisions relating to the constitution, funding, and functioning of the animal welfare board.

Constitution of the Board

According to Section 4 of this Act, an animal welfare board shall be established by the Central Government purporting to provide for animal welfare and extending protection against animals from unnecessary pain or suffering. Also, this board shall be considered as a corporate body having unending succession along with a common seal with the power:

  • To acquire, hold, and dispose of property; and 
  • To sue and be sued by its name.

According to Section 5 of this Act, the animal welfare board shall be constituted by the following persons:

  1. The Inspector-General of Forests to the Government of India, ex officio;
  2. The Animal Husbandry Officer to the Government of India, ex-officio;
  3. Two persons whose appointment shall be made by the Central Government for representing the Union Ministers dealing with Home Affairs and Education;
  4. One person who shall be appointed by the Union Government as a representative of the Indian Board for Wild Life;
  5. Three persons are to be appointed by the Union Government if it opines that such persons are presently or in the past been actively engaged in animal welfare or are well-known humanitarians;
  6. One person to be appointed as a representative of any association of veterinary practitioners;
  7. One person as a representative of each of 2 municipal corporations;
  8. One person to represent each of such three animal welfare organizations;
  9. One person as a representative of each of such 3 societies dealing with prevention of cruelty to animals;
  10. Three persons nominated by the Central Government;
  11. Six Parliamentary members, out of which four from the Loksabha and two from the Rajyasabha;
  12. All the persons mentioned above can depute another person for attending the board meetings as their representative;
  13. The Union Government shall nominate one of the board members to be its Chairman and another to be its Vice-chairman.

Term of Office and Service Conditions of the Board members

According to Section 6;

  1. The term in the office of a Board member shall be for a 3 years period;
  2. Subject to the provisions enshrined in sub-section 4, the term of the Office of any elected representative of a Municipal Corporation (except Municipal corporations of Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, & Madras) shall continue for a period of one year commencing from the day of assumption of office;
  3. The term of office of an ex officio member shall continue until he holds the office by virtue of his membership;
  4. The term of office of elected representatives, appointed under section 5 as board members, shall last as long as the tenure or purpose of his representation in such elected body;
  5. In case a member is chosen, elected, or nominated for filling the vacant position of a board member, then such membership shall last in conformity with the tenure for whose position the member has been so chosen or elected or nominated;
  6. The Board members shall receive allowances, as the Board may provide with prior approval of the Central Government;
  7. Any activity or proceeding by the Board shall remain unquestioned, merely because of the existence of any vacancy in or constitutional defect of the Board.

Board Secretary and other employees

According to Section 7 of this Act; the Central Government shall appoint one of its officers as the Board Secretary.

Subject to the rules enacted by the Central Government in this regard, the Board may appoint the necessary number of officers or employees for exercising the powers or discharging the functions of the board. Also, with the prior approval of the Central Government, the Board may ascertain the terms and conditions of service of the Board employees and officials.

Funds of the Board

According to Section 8 of this Act; the board’s fund shall consist of the followings:

  • Governmental grants allocated to it time and again;
  • Contributions, donations, gifts, subscriptions, etc. made to the Board by any individual or local authority.

Functions of the Board

According to Section 9; the Board shall have the following functions:

  1. Supervising the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty against animals and advising the Government on necessary amendments in relation to such law;
  2. Advising the Central Government on the enactment of rules under this Act emphasizing on the prevention of unnecessary pain or suffering to animals in general, especially during their transportation from one place to another or during their use as performing animals or during their captivity or confinement;
  3. Advising  the Government or any local authority or any other person on improvements in the vehicles’ design for reducing the burden on draught animals;
  4. Adopting all essential steps for improving the conditions of the animals, by encouraging or providing for, the construction of shades, water-troughs, etc and by providing for veterinary treatment for the animals;
  5. Advising the Government, or any local authority, or any individual in:
  • Designing, or
  • Maintenance, or
  • In connection with animal slaughtering,

For the elimination of unwanted physical or mental pain or suffering in the pre-slaughter stages as far as practicable for ensuring the animals are executed in a humane manner as possible;

  1. Adopting all necessary measures for ensuring that unwanted animals are killed, either instantly or after being rendered insensible to pain, by the local authorities;
  2. Encouraging the formation or establishment of the followings by extending financial or other assistance:
  • Pinjra Poles,
  • rescue homes,
  • animal shelters,
  • Sanctuaries, and etc

where animals and birds may find shelter during their old age or when they require protection;

  1. Cooperating with or coordinating the work of associations or bodies that are established purporting to prevent unnecessary pain or suffering to animals and birds or for their protection;
  2. Extending financial assistance to locally functional animal welfare organizations or encouraging the formation of animal welfare organizations in any local area whose work shall be guided and supervised by the Board; 
  3. Advising the Government on medical care and attention which may be provided in animal hospitals, along with providing financial and other assistance to animal hospitals;
  4. Imparting  education pertaining to the humane treatment of animals, thereby forming public opinion against the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering to animals, and  promotion of animal welfare through lectures, books, posters, cinematographic exhibitions, etc.;
  5. Advising the Government on any matters relating to animal welfare or preventing the cause of unnecessary pain or suffering upon animals.

Regulatory powers of the Board

According to Section 10; the Board may enact essential rules and regulations for the administration of its affairs and carrying out its functions, subject to prior approval of the Central Government.
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Cruelty to animals in General

Acts to be considered as cruel

According to Section 11 of this Act, the following acts by any person are to be considered as cruelty:

  1. beats, kicks, runs over, drives over, loads over, tortures or otherwise treats any animal by causing unnecessary pain or suffering or causes or being the owner permits, any animal for such employment;
  2. employs any animal in work or labour which due to any disease, infirmity, wound, sore or other cause, is unfit for such employment or, being the owner lets any such unfit animal be so employed; or
  3. Causes willful and unreasonable administration of any injurious drug or substance to any domestic or captive animal or willfully and unreasonably inflicts or attempts to inflict an intake of any such drug or substance by any domestic or captive animal; or
  4. Conveys or carries, any animal in such a manner or position thereby causing it unnecessary pain or suffering; or
  5. Cages or confines any animal or other receptacle having insufficient growth in height, length and breadth for permitting the animal a reasonable opportunity to move around;
  6. keeps any animal chained or tethered by means of an unreasonably short or long-chain, for an unreasonable time period; or
  7. Being the owner negligently exercises or cause such reasonable negligence to any dog habitually chained up or kept in close confinement; or
  8. Being the owner of any captive animal fails to supply it with adequate food, drink or shelter; or
  9. Abandoning any animal in such situations causing it to suffer pain by reason of starvation or thirst, without any reason; or
  10. Deliberately permitting any animal, of which be is the owner to go at large in any street while the animal is affected with a contaminating or infectious disease or, without reasonable excuse permits any diseased or disabled animals, to die in any street; or
  11. Offering for sale or possessing any animal which is suffering pain due to: mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment, or
  12. Needlessly mutilates any animal or kills any animal by unnecessary cruelty; or
  13. Confines or causes confinement of any animal in a manner, thereby making it an object of prey for any other animal solely with a view to providing entertainment for other persons; or
  14. For business purposes-
  • organizes,
  • keeps,
  • uses or acts in the management of,

any place for animal fighting or purporting to bait any animal or permits or offers any place to be so used or receives money for the admission of any other person to any place kept or used for any such purposes; or

  • Promotes or participates in any shooting match or competition where captive animals are released for the purpose of such an event;

he shall be punishable, in case of a first offence, with fine extending up to 50 INR, and, in the case of a second or subsequent offence committed within 3 years of the previous offence, with fine which may extend up to 100 INR, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 months, or both

However, the following acts shall be excluded from the ambit of cruelty:

  1. the dehorning of a cattle/castration/branding/nose-roping of any animal if done in a prescribed manner, or
  2. Destroying stray dogs in lethal chambers or by other methods with minimal suffering; or
  3. Exterminating or destroying any animal under the legal authority of any existing law; or
  4. Any matter under Chapter IV (Experimentation on Animals); or
  5. Doing or abstaining from any activity in the course of the destruction or preparing for destroying any animal as food for human consumption, unless such destruction or preparation was supplemented by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.

The killing of the suffering animals

Section 13 of this Act deals with provisions relating to the killing of an animal so as to relieve it from any further suffering.

  1. Where the animal owner is convicted of an offence under Section 11 and the court is satisfied that keeping such an animal alive shall inflict more pain and suffering on it, then the Court shall direct the killing of such an animal and also assign a person for its execution. The person so assigned shall then carry out the execution as early as possible. However, the order of execution shall only be made if the owner assents on this behalf, or else upon the evidence of a veterinary officer in the area.
  2. When any magistrate, commissioner of police/district superintendent of police reasonably believes that an offence under Section 11 has been committed, he may direct the immediate destruction of such an animal, if he opines that it would be cruel to keep the animal alive.
  3. Any police officer of upper rank than that of a constable or any person authorized in this regard by the State Government who finds any diseased animal or any severely injured animal or in such a physical state that he opines that it is irremovable without cruelty, may, in the absence of the owner or his refusal to consent in the animal’s destruction, shall then summon and consult the veterinary officer in charge of the area. If the veterinary officer certifies that the animal has a mortal or severe injury or in such a physical condition that it would be cruel to injure or in such a physical condition that it would be cruel to keep it alive, then the police officer or the authorized person, as the case may be, after obtaining magisterial order may destroy the injured animal or cause its destruction.
  4. The magisterial order for the destruction of an animal shall be non-appealable.

Experimenting on Animals

According to Section 14 of this Act; nothing in this Act shall affect the experimentation (including operations) on animals for the purpose of:

  • Advancement through the new discovery of physiological knowledge; or
  • Knowledge which will be useful for decreasing the mortality rate; or
  • Suffering alleviation; or
  • for combating any disease;

whether human beings, animals, or plants.

Committee for controlling and supervising experiments on animal

According to Section 15;

1) The Central Government may constitute a Committee, on the advice of the Board, if it opines at any time that it is essential for the purpose of controlling and supervising the experiments on animals, by notifying in the Official Gazette.

2) The Central Government shall be capable of nominating one of the Committee members to be its Chairman.

3) The Committee shall be empowered to regulate its own procedure pertaining to the performance of its duties.

4) The Committee’s funds shall include Government grants provided to it time and again; along with the following made to it by any person-

  • Contributions,
  • Donations,
  • Subscriptions,
  • Bequests,
  • Gifts.

Using Animals for performance

Exhibition and Training

According to Section 21; exhibit refers to exhibit at any entertainment to which the public makes admission through purchasing of tickets and training means to train any animal for the purpose of such exhibition, and the term exhibitor and trainer has a corresponding meaning.

Restriction on exhibiting performing animals

According to Section 22; an animal can not be exhibited or trained by any person, if-

  1. Such a person is unregistered as per the provisions of this chapter;
  2. Such an animal has been barred from being included in any performance by the Central Government through a notification in the Official Gazette.

Judicial power to prohibit or restrict exhibition or training of any animal

According to Section 24; where any magistrate is satisfied, on the basis of a written complaint made to it by a police officer or an authorized officer by the prescribed authority referred to in Section 23, that during the training or exhibition, any performing animal has undergone unnecessary pain or suffering and should be prohibited or allowed only subject to conditions, the court may issue an order against the defendant, prohibiting the training or exhibition.

Any court making an order under this section shall immediately send a copy of the order to the prescribed authority by which the defendant, and shall cause the particulars of the order to be supported by the certificate held by the defendant. The same shall be produced by the defendant on being required by the court for endorsement purposes, and the prescribed authority shall enter the particulars of the order in that register.

Power of entering premises

According to Section 25; any person authorized by the prescribed authority in writing and any police officer, not below the rank of sub-inspector may-

  1. enter any premises at all times for the purpose of inspection, where any performing animals are being trained or exhibited or have been kept for such purpose, and any such animals found in there; and
  2. require any person to produce his registration certificate, who he reasonably believes to be a trainer or exhibitor of performing animals.

No person or police officer, however, shall be entitled to go on or behind the backstage during the public performance of the performing animals.

Offences in relation to performing animals

According to Section 26; a person shall be said to have committed an offence under the provisions of this chapter if he does any of the following acts-

  1. Exhibits or trains any unregistered animal for performance; or
  2. Being registered under this Act, exhibits or trains any performing animal, in respect of which he is unregistered; or
  3. Exhibits or trains a performing animal, or any animal which is not to be used for this purpose; or
  4. Causes obstruction or willful delay to any person or police officer referred under Section 25 from exercising of power for entering and inspecting, or
  5. hides  any animal to avoid the inspection; or
  6. Being a person registered under this Act fails to provide his registration certificate without reasonable cause; or
  7. Applies for registration under this Act while lacking entitlement for such registration.

The person, if found guilty of any of these offences, shall be fined for an amount up to Rs 500 or with imprisonment up to 3 months or both.


According to Section 27; nothing in this chapter shall be applicable to-

  1. The training of animals for bonafide military or police purpose or exhibition of animals trained for such purpose;
  2. Any animals kept for educational or scientific exhibition in any zoological garden, or any association or scientific society.

Other Provisions

Killing for religious purposes

According to Section 28; the provisions of this act shall be inapplicable on the killing of any animal for the purposes of any religious community.

For eg: Goat slaughter during Kalipuja shall be out of the purview of this app.

Power of court to deprive person convicted of ownership of an animal

According to Section 29; if any animal owner is found guilty of any offence under this Act, the court, in addition to any other punishment, make an order for the forfeiture of the animal to the government against which the offence was committed and may, further, make such order as to the disposal of the animal as it finds appropriate under the circumstances.

The person against such an order has been made, shall be unable to have custody or ownership of any animal either permanently or for a fixed time specified in the order.

If the guilty person contravenes any provision of the order then such person shall be punishable with a fine up to Rs 100 or imprisonment up to 3 months or both.

The court is empowered to modify or rescind any order, either on its own behalf or on behalf of an application made to it.

Presumption of guilt in certain cases

According to Section 30; if any person is charged with the offence of committing a zoocide of a cow or goat or their progeny, in contravention to Section 11(1)(1), and it is evident that at the time of commission he was in possession of skin of such animal, then he shall be presumed guilty until and unless the contrary is proven.

Treatment and care for the animals

According to Section 35 of this Act; the State Government may appoint infirmaries for the treating and caring of the animals in respect of which offences under this Act have been committed, and may authorize the detention of any animal which requires its production before a magistrate.

The magistrate before whom prosecution for an offence against this Act has been instituted, may direct that the animal concerned shall be treated and cared by an infirmary until its recovery, or that it shall be sent to a pinjrapole. Also, if the veterinary officer in charge of the area in which it is traced or such other veterinary officer as may be authorized in this behalf certifies that such injury is incurable or irremovable without cruelty, then it shall be destroyed.

An animal sent to an infirmary, for care and treatment shall not be released from such place unless the magistrate directs that it shall be sent to a pinjrapole or for its destruction, except upon a discharge certificate issued by the veterinary officer in charge of the area in which the infirmary is located or such other veterinary officer as may be authorized in this behalf.

The transportation cost for sending the animal to an infirmary or pinjrapole, its maintenance, and treatment in such infirmary, shall be payable by the owner as per the scale of rates to be prescribed by the district magistrate, or, in case of the presidency-towns, by the Commissioner of police.

Provided that if the owner of the animal is penurious, the Magistrate shall make an order waiving the payment of the charge for the treatment of the animal.

Any amount payable by an animal owner may be recovered in resembling manner as an arrear of land revenue.

If the owner acts negatively to remove the animal within the time specified by the Magistrate, then the magistrate may direct for its selling and that the sales proceeding be applied to recover such cost.

The surplus, if any, from the sales proceeds shall, on an application by the owner within 2 months from the sale date, be paid to him.

Limiting Prosecutions

According to Section 36; no prosecution for an offence committed under this act can be instituted after the expiration of 3 months from the date of committing the offence.


This act was the first act for dealing with cruelty against animals and animal protection. In 1972, the Wildlife Protection Act was passed by the Parliament which was more of a special enactment dealing with the protection of wild animals within the Indian territory.

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