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Animal Cruelty Laws in India: An Overview


     Animals are extremely important to humans. They are vital for the ecosystem. India, being a country where animals are worshipped and considered as an integral part of the universe, has an alarming rate of animal cruelty cases coming up. Subjecting animals to fight or using them to test in laboratories or assaulting street animals are a few acts of animal cruelty. Now-a-days, heinous acts of cruelty have been coming in the limelight that has shook the very core of our society.[i]

     Animal cruelty can be defined as the crime of inflicting physical pain, suffering or death on an animal, usually a tame one, beyond necessity or normal discipline. It can include neglect, withholding of food and water, death or being put in imminent danger of death. Indian laws are not as often debated upon when it comes to animals as compared to the other legal topics in the country. There are several laws enacted for the safety, protection and punishment thereof for animal cruelty.

The Constitution of India:

     The Constitution of India directs under the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) to protect and improve the environment and safeguard wildlife and forests[ii]. It is also the Fundamental Duty of the citizens to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures[iii]. As a Fundamental Right, freedom to practice profession, occupation, trade and business[iv] like caring of animals as a profession is also safeguarded by the Constitution. In 2014, the Hon’ble Supreme Court while deciding on the Jallikattu matter, extended the scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which gives the Fundamental Right to Life to animals as well[v]. The Uttar Pradesh State Government approved the draft of the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Cow Slaughter Prevention (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, that protect cows and prevent their slaughter, it shall provide maximum rigorous imprisonment of 10 years and a fine up to Rs 5 Lakhs[vi].

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960:

     This act came into force 26th December,1960 repealing the previous 1890 Act. It legislates the duty we have as humans towards animals. This act significantly deals with matters relating to cruelty against animals. It provides for the establishment of Animal Welfare Board of India.[vii] This board acts as an advisory to the Central Government on the drafting of rules under the Act to prevent animal cruelty generally and particularly when they are being transported from one place to another or when they are used as performing animals or when they are kept captive or confined. The board is to provide financial and other assistance to Animal Welfare Organizations that function in any local area and encourage forming of Animal Welfare Organizations in any local area to work under the general supervision and guidance of the Board.[viii]

     The act defines “Animal” as “any living creature other than a human being”[ix] It is the duty of every person having the care or charge of any animal to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain or suffering.[x]

     Chapter III of this act plays a crucial part of the act. Sections 11 to 13[xi] gives details about the cruel and brutal acts prohibited by the law. Section 11 gives provisions regarding treating animals with cruelty and Section 12 states the penalty for practicing phooka or doom dev. Section 13 contains provisions regarding destruction of suffering animals.

     The Act also states that unlawful experiments done on animals including operations for the purpose of advancement or new discoveries of physiological knowledge or any other knowledge which will be useful for saving lives or prolong life is prohibited.[xii] It implies certain restrictions in training and performing of the animals in various events.[xiii] The act allows inclusion of only those animals which are registered with the Central government.[xiv] The act mentions that killing an animal in any manner prescribed by the religion is accepted, mainly because of many religious sentiments attached to it.[xv]

     There have been some improvements in the penalty structure since the act was passed in the year 1960. After the constant Supreme court directions, the current government has amended the animal laws by increasing the fine from Rs.50 to Rs.6000. The act is a well written Act according to the time but it needs to be Amended rightly and justly.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972:

     The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 was enacted to safeguard the flora and fauna of the country and to ensure environmental and ecological security. This Act provides for the protection of a listed species of flora and fauna and also for the establishment of a network of ecologically-important protected areas in the country. The Act attempts to classify certain acts as illegal as they are inhumane to animals.

  1. Teasing, molesting, injuring, feeding or causing disturbance to any animal by noise or otherwise is prohibited and a punishable offence.[xvi] 
  2. The act makes it unlawful to injure, destroy wild birds or reptiles, damaging their eggs or disturbing their eggs or nests and deems it as a punishable offence.[xvii]

Indian Penal Code, 1860:

     The Indian Penal Code, 1860 which is the official criminal code of India, deems animal cruelty as an offence. It states that killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless;

  1. any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards, are punishable with imprisonment up to two years, or with fine, or with both.[xviii]
  2. any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox, or any other animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards, by punishing with imprisonment of either for a term which may extend to five years, or fine, or both.[xix]

It is a crime to threaten, abuse or harass people who feed animals. The Code provides that, ‘anyone who threatens or intimidates any person taking care of dogs is liable for criminal intimidation and can be arrested without a warrant’[xx]. Further, ‘Committing the offence of criminal intimidation shall attract the punishment up to two years, or with fine, or with both’[xxi]. The Delhi Police act, 1968, under sections 73 to 79, 99 provides special powers to police to take action when an animal offence has been committed.

Rules for Strays:

  1. Under Stray Dog Management Rules 2001, it is illegal for an individual, RWA or estate management to remove or relocate dogs. The dogs have to be sterilized and vaccinated and returned to the same area and they cannot be removed by the municipality either.
  2. Ministry of Public Grievances notification and a similar notification by Animal Welfare Board of India to provide immunity to animal feeders and restrict government employees or bodies such as Societies from harassing people who feed or help animals.
  3. The Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2001, enacted under PCA, provide for sterilization and vaccination as a means of stabilizing/ reducing stray dog population and eliminating the risk of rabies; and prohibits relocation of stray dogs i.e. forcing them out of one area, into another. An order passed by Supreme Court in this regard, also prohibits removal, dislocation or killing of all dogs and gave a similar stay order Use of animals for experimentation and research in the cosmetic industry amounts to grave cruelty against removal culling or dislocation of a dog anywhere in India.[xxii]

The Judicial Approach:

    The very famous case of Jallikattu case (Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A Nagaraja and Ors., (2014) 7 SCC 547), when the Supreme Court banned the practice of Jallikattu (a bull taming sport) in 2014, it called attention to various sections of the PCA Act, 1960, which addresses suffering of animals beyond reasonable acts. Sections 3 and 11 of the Act were implied and the Court declared that all animal fights incited by humans are illegal, even those carried out under the name of tradition and culture. The Court also listed recommendations, including penalties and punishments under PCA Act, so that it functions effectively as a deterrent in animal cruelty cases. The Supreme Court upheld the right of animals to live with honor and dignity. Later the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017 permitted the popular sport again as a tradition.

     In Nair, N.R. and Ors. Vs. Union of India and Ors., (2001) 3 SCR 353, a notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forests stating that bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animal was challenged before the Kerala High Court and the court upheld the notification. The same was then challenged in the Supreme Court. The court dismissed the petitioner’s argument of the right to carry out any trade or business under Article 19(g) of the Indian Constitution is violated. The court declared that animals suffer cruelty as they are abused and caged to make them perform, and therefore, this contradicts the PCA Act, 1960.

     In the case State of U.P Vs. Mustakeem and Ors (2002), SC 283/287, the custody of goats was returned to the owner by the U.P High Court while the matter was under litigation. In a case, goats were transported for slaughter in a cruel manner (they were tightly bound to each other, which was against the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960). On appeal made to the Supreme Court, the court declared that the animals were supposed to be confiscated from the owner and housed in a gaushala, under the care of the state government who was given their charge for the duration of the case. With this ruling, the Court made it amply clear that custody of animals, in cases of cruelty.


     As it was rightly held by the Supreme Court of India that animals too are protected under the Constitution of India as they too have their right to life and to live without unnecessary pain and with dignity. Although there are adequate animal protection laws in the state, with a particular focus on protecting cows for religious purposes, the legislation falls short of international standards in many areas, such as the killing of healthy stray dogs, the legalization on husbandry practices such as dehorning and nose roping and exemptions for religious slaughter. As a result, India was given a “C” under the Animal Protection Index (API) 2020, and is also a moderate performer under the Sanctioning Cruelty category[xxiii].

     Animal rights activist Ms. Gauri Maulekhi wrote a letter to the secretary of the Environment Ministry Mr. C.K. Mishra on September 2016, urging the government to amend the laws. A study conducted by an organization, Humane society in U.S. found that “Intentional cruelty towards animals is strongly related to other crimes including violence against people. The Survey suggests that men under 30 predominantly intended to abuse animals. The most common victims of animal cruelty are dogs, cats, horses, cattle and livestock. Cruelty to animals is directly related to domestic violence. The majority number of domestic violence victims reported that their abusers also target animals.”[xxiv] Hence with this study, it is clear that India needs to implement stricter laws to not only serve as a deterrent but also provides for system that protects animals as well as the society on the whole.


     Gandhi once said, ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’. This being not only a thought but a reality in countries like the Switzerland, Germany and Austria which are considered to be the world’s safest country for animals who have well established laws for animals. Cruelty towards animals is prevalent cross all borders, be it social or economic background, urban or rural, literate or illiterate, all societies have cases relating to animal cruelty. The all-time prevailing conflict whether the laws of the state are inadequate or is it the lack implementation are not the only hurdles to prevent animal cruelty, the change needs to come from within. Awareness has to be created among the people. India, having quite a number of provisions as mentioned above still needs to update the legislated laws and make them stricter. It is also of the highest priority to have an effective implementation along with amending the legislation for preventing cruelty to animals. The lawmakers can see to it that they are in accordance with the current scenario and not burdening for the community.

[i] Meenu Kataria, 15 Instances Of Animal Cruelty In India That Make Us Wonder If We’re Even Human Anymore, ScoopWhoop Media Pvt. Ltd., (July. 30, 2018, 16:55 PM),

[ii] INDIA CONST. art. 48A.

[iii] INDIA CONST. art. 51A, cl. g

[iv] INDIA CONST. art. 19 (1). cl. g

[v] Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraj and Ors., (2014) 7 SCC 547

[vi] Arushi Singh, Humans losing humanity: Rising instances of animal cruelty in India, land where they are worshipped, The New Indian Express, (June. 19, 2020, 8:39 AM),


[viii] Roles/ Functions, Animal Welfare Board of India,



[xi] Radha Mehta, Animal Cruelty and Laws for Protection of Animal Rights, Legal Service India,





[xvi] WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972; §. 38(j)

[xvii] WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972; §. 16(c)

[xviii] Indian Penal Code, 1860; §. 428

[xix] Indian Penal Code, 1860; §. 429

[xx] Indian Penal Code, 1860; §. 503

[xxi] Indian Penal Code, 1860; §. 506

[xxii] Animal Welfare Board of India v. People for Elimination of Stray Troubles & Ors., (2016) 13 SCC 492

[xxiii] AC Team, India Graded C No Other Country made up to A Grade: Animal Protection Index 2020, Affairs Cloud, March 13, 2020,

[xxiv] Hayden Fowler, Animal cruelty facts and stats, The Humane Society of the United States,