Animal Laws in India: An Overview

It has been rightly said by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, that "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

In India, animals are not only considered as livestock but are also seen as a symbol of God. Almost all religions strongly recognise the value that animals hold and the need for their safety. India is home to various species of animals, and it is quite crucial to protect them. The issue of animal protection and welfare has gained prominence over the past few years.

This is because, despite various laws and constitutional provisions, animal cruelty cases are on the rise. Animal cruelty is putting animals in an environment where they feel vulnerable and terrorized. People slaughter and ill-treat animals for their personal entertainment. Despite the fact that animals are worshipped in India, the animal cruelty cases reveal the pathetic face of the society. Innocent animals are subjected to atrocities such as rape, kicking, murder, poisoning, beating, stone pelting, and so on.

The above does not negate the fact that Parliament has enacted a plethora of laws to protect animal welfare. This article attempts to discuss these animal welfare legislations as well as other animal protection provisions in the Indian Constitution and Indian Penal Code.

What is Animal Welfare?

Animal welfare implies a standard of living led by the animals and a safe and balanced existence with their habitat. It also imbibes the relationship between man and the wild. Animal welfare refers to all aspects connected with an animal's well-being. Predominantly, it covers five key areas: nutrition, environment, health, behaviour, and mental state.

  • Nutrition : freedom from thirst and hunger

  • Environment :  freedom from discomfort by providing suitable shelter

  • Health : freedom from injury and disease by providing proper treatment

  • Behaviour : freedom to express their own kind by providing proper facilities

  • Mental state : freedom from fear and mental suffering.

At this point, it becomes imperative to mention the opinion of the Supreme Court, which makes the need for an animal welfare regime even more important. In the case of Centre for Environmental Law, WWF v. Union of India, the apex court said that "eco-centrism" and not "anthropocentrism" should be the norm for ensuring a sustainable future for both humans and other species. "Eco-centrism" regards both humans and non-humans as natural beings, each with their own intrinsic value.

Thus, there are a plethora of animal welfare laws, rules, and provisions in India, but their effective implementation invites several questions.

Constitution of India, 1950

Some constitutional provisions relating to animal welfare are −

  • Article 48 of the Constitution of India discusses agriculture and animal husbandry. It instructs the government to use modern technology in order to avoid animal slaughter.

  • Article 48A talks about environmental and wildlife conservation. It instructs the government to maintain and preserve the environment.

  • Article 51A(g) makes it a fundamental duty of citizens to safeguard and preserve the natural environment.

  • Article 243G read with Schedule 11 empowers the Panchayat to legislate upon animal husbandry and poultry.

But despite the obligations and requirements set forth in the Constitution, individuals in India continue to treat animals in a harsh and inhumane way.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

The following provisions of the Indian Penal Code provide protection to animals −

  • Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC punish a person with up to five years' imprisonment for committing mischief by harming, injuring, killing, poisoning, or maiming animals with such intention.

  • Section 377 of the IPC makes sexual intercourse between a man and an animal a cognizable and non-bailable offense. However, in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, the Supreme Court partially decriminalised Section 377 in order to protect consensual same-sex sexual intercourses. This is often mistaken for the decriminalisation of the entire section. It is critical to keep the offence of bestiality or make explicit provisions for it in another animal protection law.

  • Illustration (ii) of Section 378 considers an act of dishonestly taking away a dog from its owner as a theft of movable property.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

This Act is the principle parliamentary legislation regarding animal protection. The central aim behind this legislation is to prevent the infliction of any unnecessary harm, atrocities, or cruelty on animals. The protection of this act is specific to animals.

The salient features of this Act are discussed as follows −

  • An Animal Welfare Board has been created at the national level to protect animals and promote their welfare.

  • The Act provides punishment for various offences against animals, but the punishment is very nominal and can easily be avoided by the offender. For example, the punishment for killing a homeless animal is a 100-rupee fine or imprisonment up to three years.

  • Section 11 of the Act is the most comprehensive section, as it defines cruelty against animals and also prescribes punishment for the same. Beating, torturing, overriding, kicking, overloading on animals, administering wilfully injurious drugs and substances to animals, chaining animals for an unreasonable period of time, mutilating, or killing an animal are all considered cruel acts under this section.

  • The Act makes it a duty of an animal owner to take reasonable care of the food and shelter of its pet animal.

  • The Act also restricts the training and exhibition of a performing animal.

  • Animal experiments are also legal under the Act if they are related to discoveries about the longevity of life in plants, humans, or animals.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

This comprehensive act was enacted in 1972 to protect animals and plant species. It was put into effect for the purpose of protecting and preserving wildlife animals and their illegal smuggling and trade. It is important to note that this is not the only wildlife protection legislation; there are many others, such as the Wild Life (Transactions and Taxidermy) Rules, 1973, the Wild Life (Protection) Rules, 1995, and so on.

The Act requires the constitution of a wildlife advisory board in every state and union territory for declaring areas as wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and closed areas and foreseeing their administration. This board has also been empowered to formulate policies for protecting and conserving wildlife.

The Act prohibits the hunting of animals in most cases, restricts the sacrifice of animals, and forbids the creation of any damage to any creature. This Act also provides punishment for various offences against animals.

Likewise, the basic function of the legislation is to develop a framework for the protection of wildlife in the country.


Other than these two main legislations, there are several rules, regulations, and laws especially curated for animal protection in India. Some are:

  • Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules, 2017

  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017

  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017

  • Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2001

  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

  • The Cattle Trespass Act, 1871

  • The Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act, 2005

Animal Welfare Organizations

There are both governmental and non-governmental animal welfare organisations that are designated with the work of ensuring animals' safety and promoting their welfare. Their main objective is to give voice to these voiceless creatures. They fight for the rights of animals and persuade the legislature to enact effective laws on the issue. Some of these organisations are:

  • The Animal Welfare Board of India: AWBI is a body established under Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It is an advisory body to the government, advising on all aspects relating to animal welfare and ensuring effective implementation of the existing laws. It has also been empowered to recognise animal welfare organizations.

  • The National Institute of Animal Welfare: NIAW was established in 1990 by the Environment and Forest Ministry. It is the apex body for animal welfare. It has been entrusted with the aim of creating awareness about animal welfare, conducting educational and training programmes, and creating an environment that gives utmost importance to animal protection.

  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): PETA was founded in 2000. It has the motto that "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way." It has been working for animal rights protection, creating awareness against animal abuse, and educating people about the rights of the voiceless.

  • Blue Cross of India: It is also one of the largest non-governmental animal welfare organisations in India. It was founded in 1959 and is based in Chennai.


Even though India has animal protection laws, they are either not effective enough to stop crimes against animals or they are not effectively enforced. There are various loopholes in the current legislation that allow offenders to avoid punishment. The only way to safeguard animals is to make the required changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, close any loopholes, and increase the severity of the penalties to deter anyone from abusing animals under the mistaken belief that they have no rights. Education about animal rights is also required so that, at the very least, any pet owner can oppose cruelty to animals.


Q1. Is Animal Testing legal in India?

Ans. Animal testing for cosmetic items is prohibited in India. In spite of this, animal testing on pharmaceuticals is still permitted in India since it is thought that this is the only way to fully understand pharmacology and that doing so is essential to the advancement of medical science. Rabbits, sheep, mice, guinea pigs, albino rats, monkeys, frogs, primates, and other animals are used in drug testing. The product's ingredients are likewise subject to the ban.

Q2. Can an individual ‘arrest’ someone who is treating an animal cruelly and bring him to a police station?

Ans. Any person or individual who is present when a crime under the Act is committed may file a written report with the closest police station to have it investigated.

Q3. Is it illegal to sacrifice animals?

Ans. The sacrifice of animals is forbidden. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, and the Indian Penal Code all prohibit the practise of animal sacrifice (IPC). In accordance with The Prohibition of Bird and Animal Sacrifice Act, it is also expressly prohibited in the following states: a) Andhra Pradesh; b) Gujarat; c) Karnataka; d) Kerala; e) Pondicherry; f) Rajasthan; and g) Tamil Nadu.

Updated on: 05-May-2023


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