Developments in Animal law and welfare in India throughout the years: an insight

Developments in Animal law and welfare in India throughout the years: an insight

Author:Riya Pratibha Nayak, a Student of Symbiosis Law School Hyderabad, 2023-2028


Animal welfare is not essentially a new concept in the Republic of India, especially since she established herself as a non-violent country, amidst its freedom struggles with the British. All through the Indian godly history, there have been established principles such as Ahimsa, or the practice of non-violence; and with the presence of religious texts, epics, and practices, which established the concept of healthy exploitation of animals. Compassion is what naturally came to us. While the presence of such customs are long dated, the initial “laws” were passed in Mid-1960, as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960); and the first society for animal welfare was in fact established as the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which also lead to many extensions to the subject in the upcoming years. 

With India’s independence, there opened a whole new frontier for animal protection, especially with the 1976 amendment of the Indian Constitution, which mandated environment protection and compassion for any and all creatures. 

And while these laws are extremely helpful, its enforcement and implementation is still remain unmanaged and poor, with people all around the nation subjecting animals to cruelty and over-exploitation, both directly and indirectly; directly by means of violence, usually for extraction of hide, fur, horns, and also genetic mutilations to increase the yield of their natural produce such as poultry and dairy. 

While Indirect threats might not be so often acknowledged or addressed, they do prove to be a root cause of many issues for both, wild and stray animals. Such issues may range from pollution (altering their air, food and water), to deforestation and extinction due to lack of security provisions present for run-away animals who may succumb to injuries due to road accidents. 


The government of India subsequently launched People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who has significantly contributed as the bridging link between the mass public and awareness, thanks to their tireless efforts in ending the abusive treatments of animals in certain controlled sectors of India and helping people promote the consideration of animal welfare and interests in their day-to-day practices. 

People For Animals (PFA) was also launched shortly, following the animal welfare developments which has now grown to be India’s largest Non-Governmental Organization, with its wide reach worldwide, operating from a total of 26 hospitals, 165 working units, 60 remote units and more than 2 lakh members to rescue, rehabilitate and treat stray, sick and needy animals; thus spreading organizational welfare through social media about animal cruelty. 

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), ever since its establishment in 1997 has been tirelessly focusing on the protection and conservation of wildlife, attempting to emphasize on their habitat, food and water, while simultaneously combating wildlife crime, by education as well as training officials. 


The government of India recently implemented PETA, People For Animals (PFA) and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), as a way of encouraging animal advocacy and rights among the upcoming generations, raising awareness and attempting to pursue legal actions through it, and working day through night to provide the well-deserved legal recognition to animals, which marked its breakthrough through bodyscaping the Ganges and its tributaries. 

One significant act of India extends to the protection of cruelty against animals act, 1960, which under section 11 mentions the prohibitions, namely, cruelty against pets, inhumane slaughters, inhumane transport, inhumane living conditions and tail and ear docking 

A big research gap on the subject is the comparatively greater receipt of legal representation and rights by wild animals, which leaves the grey area for stray and domesticated animals, who lack the legal protection, in the form of knowledge, involvement and the implementation of the pre-existing concrete laws. This argument extends to religious practices, where animals are presented as a “sacrifice”, and also serve as a ground for experimentation of various products, particularly cosmetics and medicines, ode to the similarities in human and animal physiologies, which has countless adversities, to begin with a surge in the decline of the population. While the use of animals for experimentation of drugs and cosmetics id banned in India, it still does not stop numerous companies from implementing the same, ode to their belief of the lack of development of pharmacology without necessary experiments, for which animals like rabbits, mice, sheep, pigs, monkeys etc. are used. As a fact, India served as the first country in southern Asia to impose a ban on the matter of animal testing and experimentation, implying the seriousness and gravity of the situation, that the government wishes to control. 

Hunting, which was a primitive means to engage in earning and entertainment for several Indians dating back to the historic era as well as presently was attempted to be abolished by India in the landmark case of State of Bihar v. Murad Ali, which was also related to Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which also defined the word “hunting” and the animals included in its pursuit . the case dealt with the protection of elephants which were hunted in the state of Bihar, and since elephants were included in the definition under the act, it was held that the hunting of animals be stopped with immediate effect. There exist several other cases, such as Navin Raheja v. UOI, which speaks for the protection of a report that suggested tigers were being skinned alive in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India; and the court ruled that poor voiceless animals should not be subject to such grave violence. in cases like Ivory Traders & Manufacturers Associates v. UOI and Rajendra Kumar v. UOI, which advocate for the conservation of elephants and protection against the over-exploitation (by means of killing live elephants) in order to extract ivory. 

This only proved the lack of presence of laws for domesticated and stray animals in our streets, colonies, societal complexes, helping the government draw inspiration from the voices of millions. 

The government then proceeded to implement the following laws to ensure complete protection, recognition and basic health and safety of stray animals: 

  • Section 428, section 429 IPC: prohibits commitment of mischief against animals by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal or animals of value ten rupees or upwards. For the same offence, the punishment may be in the form of imprisonment for a term of 2 years and/ or a fine. While section 429 is similar to the former, the only difference existing is the value of animals which ranges to fifty rupees or higher and an imprisonment period of 5 years or more and/ or a fine. 
  • Section 503 IPC: any person who threatens, harasses or intimidates any feeders and/or caretakers of stray cats and dogs is liable for criminal intimidation, allowing caretakers to freely feed, provide for and relocate the stray dogs and cats without any intimidation or threat from a third party. 
  • Art. 51A (g) of The Indian Constitution: “it shall be the duty f every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures” 

In the key judgement of RNA Royale Park CHSL & ors v. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, which is extremely unknown,  where it was noticed that there was the petitioner (animal advocate) brought an action against the respondent (the society complex) for issues pertaining to the treatment of stray animals inside the complex, where it was elaborated that the security guards were being violent with the stray dogs in the absence of people, the lack of safe drinking water and feeding area in the society, to which, the court stated that it was the obligation of the society to provide adequate water to animals, especially during the summers and encouraging the petitioner to address the animal abuse by the guards. With the court’s amicable resolution in collaborations to the parties, aiming towards collective animal welfare in the long run. 


As said clearly by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon one could possess”, the most basic step, which lies within the grasp of people is education, and starts with the implemented in schools and colleges, not as books and exams, but rather in open doors, with animal shelters and organizations. 

Adoption drives should be encouraged, educating people to adopt strays. According to a recent study, certain foreign breeds of dogs such as French and American Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Shih Tzu and Pugs are most likely to develop breathing issues, ode to their biological face structure and bodily anatomy, which only further enhances the point of adoption. What we do not understand is that our obsession with buying bred dogs has caused more health problems to the “purebreds”. The biggest issue being breathing impairments, and a fatal condition called brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) 

Health of stray and domesticated animals should also be considered, which included regular medical check-ups as well as neutering and spaying the, to avoid any future health ailments which may arise and also to control stray population. 

In case of societal complexes, with the existence of a maintenance fee, there should also exist a minimal amount of contribution, mandatory for all which shall be accumulated to provide for good quality food, safe drinking water, medicines and shelters in the complexes. 

Whatever does not lie within the mass public lies with the government, who should illegalize over-exploitation of any animals; for produce or help, domesticated or wild and should mark the same as a criminal offence. Surprise checks should be organized by the government for any and all businesses that rely on animals for production. 

Coming to animal experimentation, strict rules be imposed on companies along with visits and checks and the practice of drug and cosmetic experiments on animals should be penalized as an offence under the criminal and penal codes of India, in terms of heavy fines, imprisonment and cancellation of practice license and seizing of property of that particular company. 


In summary, India’s journey towards effective animal welfare has seen progress but has a long journey ahead and faces challenges in enforcement. Recent initiatives by organizations like PETA, PFA, and WTI have raised awareness, but there’s a need for comprehensive legislation, especially for stray and domesticated animals.

While judicial interventions address specific cases, the government’s implementation of laws such as Section 428, Section 429 IPC, and Article 51A (g) of the Indian Constitution is a positive step. Education, adoption drives, and regular medical check-ups for strays are essential, with societal complexes contributing to animal welfare.

To combat over-exploitation, the government should enforce strict penalties on businesses relying on animals and prohibit animal experimentation in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Achieving a compassionate society requires collective efforts from individuals, organizations, and the government to ensure legal recognition and protection for all animals in India.

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