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India being the seventh-largest country in the world constitutes four vast bio-diverse regions out of the thirty-six biodiversity hotspots in the world. For the past few years, animal protection laws have gained a protuberant position, providing India the best provisions for animal rights.

History of Animal Rights in India:

It’s a fact that animals by law are regarded as property. This particular concept of animals as property is a relic of Roman Law. However, over the years lot of debate took place on the ethics of treating animals as property merely because animals are “sentient” beings in their own right. While anti-cruelty and animal conservation legislation in India is based on animal welfare and considerable progress towards granting animals tangible rights. It is clear that as the Courts continue to interpret these animal welfare laws in the context of Constitutional Rights and Duties, we are moving ahead a future where people cannot and should not violate without attracting criminal action. Overview of Introduction to Animal Rights in India. As per our ancient Indian culture, animals are considered “divine beings”. Currently, animals play varied roles, such as in agricultural and transportation purposes in the rural areas, pets as companions, in sports, circuses or zoos for entertainment, scientific experiments in the educational sectors in science and research etc. Animals also have a major contribution to the Indian diet too. Since the inception of mankind, humans have always been dependent on domestic creatures. Hence, these animals should be protected by means of law. There are varied guidelines in the ancient religious scriptures of India for the protection of animals too.

Animal laws and the Constitution of India:

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India that paves the fundamental political code, rights and duties of citizens, directive principles of state policy, procedures, structures and powers of governmental institutions. It is primarily considered to be a “living document”- dynamic and constantly evolving with changing times. It is the longest written constitution in any country on earth and is divided into 395 articles (demarcated into 22 parts) and 12 schedules. The Indian Constitution recognizes the sanctity of animal life and lays down the animal rights with dignity as a fundamental duty of its citizens.

The Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 48A directs the Constitutional duty of every Indian citizen to preserve and safeguard the natural environment, including forests, rivers, lakes, and wildlife, and to treat all living creatures fairly. The state further attempts and tries to enhance the quality of the environment and to protect the flora and fauna of the country from Article 48A. Both these provisions were introduced by the 42nd Amendment in 1976 for shaping and guiding the law of animal protection at the Central and State levels. As a result, legislation like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 prevail at the Centre, and a special focus on cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition exists at the State under Article 48. Item 14 of the State List provides that the States have the power to “preserve, protect and improve stock and prevent animal diseases and enforce veterinary training and practice.”

For the Concurrent List, both the Centre and the States hold the power to legislate on:

  • Item 17: “Prevention of cruelty to animals.”
  • Item 17B: “Protection of wild animals and birds.”

Cruelty against animals is also a criminal offence under Section 428 and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Article 51 (G) states the following: “It shall be 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 living creatures.”

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 tenure 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 up to 50 Rs. In case of repetition of the offence, the fine will hike or imprisonment for 3 months. The Animal Protection (Dogs) Rules, 2001 provide for rules relating to pet and street dogs. Abandoning any animal for any sort of reason can land one in prison for up to three months ubder Section 11(1)(i) and Section 11(1)(j), PCA Act, 1960.

Laws relating to 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 such as, anybody who employs any unfit animal, suffering from wound, infirmity, sores or an animal of old age, to work, anybody who carries any animal subjecting it to pain or suffering, keeps an animal in a cage or any other such confinement which is not sufficiently big enough as to let the animal move freely, any owner of an animal who allows his animal, affected with a contagious or infectious disease to die in any street, any person who offers for sale an animal that is suffering from pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or ill-treatment are punishable by fines up to Rs. 25-100 and a maximum of three months of imprisonment on the repetition of the said acts.

No animal can be slaughtered in any place other than a slaughterhouse including chickens. Sick or pregnant animals shall not be slaughtered. Rule 3, of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Rules, 2001 and Chapter 4, Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011. 

Laws relating to wild animals:

The 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.

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972:

This Act safeguards the wildlife and to have control over illegal activities of poaching, smuggling and trade in wildlife and its derivatives. In 2003, it was amended and stringent punishments and penalties were introduced to strengthen the impact of the Act. 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). Birds, too, are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (WLPA) and in Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA), along with land and aquatic animals. Monkeys are also protected under this Act and cannot be owned or displayed.

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 for any of these offences is up to Rs 100-, and three-months imprisonment in case of repetition of the offence. No animal can be used for the purpose of entertainment except without registering under The Performing Animals Rules, 1973.

A few animals’ rights under the Act are:

As per Section 9, capturing, trapping, poisoning or baiting or trying to do so to any wild animal, constitutes hunting and attracts a punishment of up to Rs. 25,000 as monetary fine or jail sentence of up to seven years or in certain cases, both.

As per ABC Rules, 2001, stray dogs that have been operated for birth control cannot be relocated or captured by anyone including any authority.

Under Section 2(16)(c), it is against the law to/attempt to injure, harm, destroy wild birds or reptiles, or damage/disturb their eggs or their nests, which would constitute an offence and such person shall be fined up to Rs. 25,000 and a jail sentence of three to seven years.

According to Section 38J, teasing, feeding or disturbing the animals by noise in a zoo or otherwise and littering the zoo premises shall constitute an offence under Section 51(1B), which attracts imprisonment may extend up to six months, or with a fine which may extend to Rs. 2000, or with both. Further, in case of a subsequent offence, the term of imprisonment may extend to 1 year, or with a fine which may extend to Rs. 5000.

Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960:

It aims to protect the animals and prevent them from suffering needless pain and modify the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. According to the Act, an animal is defined as any living creature other than a human being. Further, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), established under Chapter II of the Act by the Government of India, has the following functions:

  • It advises the government at the centre for making modifications and rules to prevent the infliction of unnecessary harm/pain to animals while transporting them, or while conducting experiments on animals or storing animals in captivity.
  • It encourages and extends financial assistance for arranging rescue homes and animal shelters for old animals.
  • It advises the government on extending medical care and regulations for animal hospitals.
  • It imparts education and awareness on the humane treatment of animals.
  • It advises the central government regarding general matters of animal welfare.

Most of the animal protection rights against cruelty are under Section 11 of the Act, wherein cruelty to animals has been enumerated in different variants as the following actions:

  • Any animal who is beaten, kicked, overridden, overloaded, tortured, mistreated and caused unnecessary pain with the permission of its owner, if exists.
  • An old or injured or unfit animal due to infirmity, wound, sore or age who is used for work/labour (the owner, as well as the user both, are held accountable).
  • Any animal who is administered an injurious drug/medicine.
  • An animal that is painfully carried through a vehicle, causing discomfort. This, in addition to Section 98 of the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978, prohibits the transportation of any animal that is diseased, fatigued or unfit for transport. Furthermore, separate transportation arrangements should be made for pregnant and very young animals.
  • An animal who is kept in a cage and not allowed a reasonable opportunity of movement or is chained (using heavy or short-chain) for an unreasonable period for no good purpose/reason or is habitually confined with no reasonable option to move will be punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 3 months or both.
  • An animal who is not provided with sufficient food, water or shelter by its owner, wherein the owner can be fined up to Rs. 50 and if a similar crime is committed within three years of the first one, he will be fined between Rs. 25 to Rs. 100.
  • An animal who is abandoned without reasonable cause, leaving it in a situation to suffer pain due to starvation/thirst – such an offence attracts a fine which can extend up to Rs. 50 and if it is committed again within three years, the fine can be between Rs. 25 to Rs. 100/ imprisonment up to three months or more.
  • An animal who has an owner and has been left wilfully by them to roam the streets or has been left on the streets to die of disease, old age or disability.
  • An animal suffering from pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment is offered for sale. 
  • Mutilating or killing animals in cruel manners, such as using strychnine injections. Killing, poisoning, maiming and torture are cognizable offences under Section 428 and 429 of IPC with rigorous imprisonment which may extend up to five years or a fine or both.
  • Any animal when used as bait for another animal solely for entertainment or is incited for the same.
  • Any animal whose owner is actively involved in organizing, keeping, using or managing any place for animal fighting or to bait any animal or allows or offers any place to be so used or receives money for the admission of any other person to any place kept or used.
  • Shooting an animal when it is released from captivity for any purpose.

Right to live without pain:

Every year, millions of animals are annihilated either to feed the humans or for medical experiments. Cruelty against animals is a cognizable offence under Section 428 and Section 429 of the Indian penal code. Today’s children must be educated to respect animals and treat them fairly. There is also a need to have stricter laws for the protection of animals. After all animals also have the right to live without pain alongside humans.

There should be no animal attacks without reason. The fact that animals cannot speak the language humans it should be taken into consideration before torturing or abusing them. Humans are the one who needs to understand the meaning of humanity and treat animals with respect.


It is an offence to treat animals cruelly which attracts a punishment of a monetary fine of Rs. 10, which may extend to Rs. 50 for being convicted the first time. For the second time within three years of the previous offence, he would be awarded a penalty of Rs. 25, which may extend to Rs. 100, or imprisonment which may extend up to three months, or both under Section 11. Moreover, under Section 20, an act that is done in contravention of any order of the committee regarding experimentation on animals is punishable with a fine of up to Rs. 200.

Steps for further enhancing the protection of animals:

  1. Banners and posters should be put up in all major areas of the town. 
  2. Proper animal care programmes must be held.
  3. Cruelty reports must be taken more seriously.
  4. People should buy and promote cruelty-free products.
  5. People must promote animal-free circuses. 


Animal cruelty is treated as a federal crime, so stricter laws must be made. Cruelty to pets is on the surge, in the past five years,19,028 animal cruelty cases were recorded. But there were no arrests or convictions, data compiled by the Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) revealed. The victims were dogs, cats, birds, goats, horses, bullocks, fowl and cattle. The Cruelty Prevention Act in various ways provides a leeway that needs to modify due to the diversity of religions and traditions in India. The punishments under the Act are not stringent/strict enough to make a deterrent impact. So extensive reforms are required with strict enforcement of the law to have stronger protection of animals in India. And last but not the least,

“We should walk hand in hand with animals”.

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