Model National Animal Welfare Legislation: Commentary

  • Jaime Kate Olin
  • Animal Legal & Historical Center
  • Publish Date: 2004
  • Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law


The initial question greeting anyone reading this sample legislation will be, and indeed, should be the question “why?”.  Why is it necessary for developing countries to implement legislation concerning animal welfare?  Why, when many of these countries are struggling with issues of human welfare, and may not even have the means to feed and care for their human populations, should nations “waste time” figuring out how to deal with issues concerning animals?  In its most basic conception, why worry about animals when we should be devoting time and energy to worrying about humans?

This is a fair question, and there is no simple way to answer it.  It makes sense, then,  to lay out a number of reasons why developing countries should take the time to read, think about, discuss, and eventually enact legislation to provide for animal welfare.

First, it must be noted that animals have an intrinsic value to society.  If we asked someone from North America to name three notable things about Kenya, for example, undoubtedly “elephants” or “lions” or “safari animals” would be among the answers given.  If we asked a member of the tourism board of Kenya what people want to see when visiting this country, it is again likely that “animals” will be at the top of the list.  This of course does not indicate that wildlife is the only notable thing about a country like Kenya.  It simply means that the Western world identifies certain countries with their animals, especially animals not native to the Western world.  Therefore, animals can provide recognition for developing countries that the rest of the world might not care about otherwise.

Second, individual animals can have an intrinsic value to their owners.  The relationships forged between humans and pets are among the strongest that humans can cultivate.  While the types of animals kept as pets may vary from country to country, the basic devotion to pets remains fairly constant.  Consider the images: a small child and his puppy playing in the woods, a teenager telling her secrets to her cat, an elderly couple walking down the street accompanied by their dogs.  Do these images really change substantially if the race of the person involved is darkened or lightened?  If the nationalities are changed from Canadian to Indian to Malaysian?  If the income of these people ranges from wealth to poverty?  The answer is no: the images of people and their pets stay the same despite the conditions into which people find themselves born.  In many ways, pets are equalizers among different groups of people.  They lend themselves to conversations between people who would otherwise never have met, as companions when people would otherwise be alone, and as confidants when people might not be able to find anyone else to sympathize.

Third, animals have substantial economic value to society.  Since the time when humans learned to domesticate large animals, farmers have understood the value that these animals can play in their lives.  They can provide a source of food, clothing, and money for a family where they would otherwise have to buy these things from another source.  The family farm has long been an important institution for families, neighborhoods, and towns.  Knowing exactly where one’s food is coming from is a virtue that cannot be overestimated.  Likewise, the use of “beasts of burden” such as horses, oxen, and donkeys for transport of goods from place to place has long allowed farmers and other small-business owners to expand their trades.  These same animals have provided people with the opportunity for travel and exploration.  Animals can provide enjoyment through hunting, racing, and zoos.  Scientific experiments using animals have yielded benefits to human health that are impossible to overestimate.  Through all of these endeavors, the owners or keepers of these animals reap monetary rewards that allow them to provide for their families.  Although many of the roles that animals play may be questionable in terms of the welfare of the animals themselves, it cannot be questioned that animals are frequently used in these ways, and that they will continue to be used as long as there are monetary benefits to be gained.

Fourth, animals can provide signals into parts of human life that need change.  The link between mistreatment of animals and abuse of children has long been documented.  It has been claimed that if individual animal abusers could be caught at early ages, many horrific crimes against humanity could be prevented.  Humane education programs in schools and through animal shelters have long been used to demonstrate to children the proper ways to care for and treat animals.  It is not a stretch to think that children who are taught humane behavior toward animals will extend this to humans.  The other side of the coin should hold true as well: should a society that mistreats its human citizens be expected to extend kindness to animals?  Is it possible to imagine that if children are taught to be kind to both animals and humans, that the next generation of people will then grow to be more humane in general? And is it a stretch to think that a country will gain a better international reputation if it is known to be kind to its own inhabitants?  The fates of animals and humans, thus, seem to be quite intertwined.

There are, then, many answers to the question of why developing countries should care about animal welfare in general.   The next important question is why these countries should implement legislation as the means for improving the lives of animals.  The easiest way to answer this question is to imagine what would happen if there were no legislation present to address these issues.  Law enforcement agents would have to make rules as they went along, and the judiciary would have to deal with every case anew.  Legislation simplifies this process by providing rules that are knowable by society and easily interpreted by officials. 

Legislation will also be effective externally, outside the boundaries of the particular implementing country.  One example is by allowing countries to save their family farms by disallowing the exploitation of their resources by corporations intent on building factory farms in those countries.  Countries will be able to prevent the outsourcing of labor for experimentation on animals and other such tasks.  And some legislation may also be able to regulate the trade in animal goods that may be harmful to a country’s international standing.

This particular legislation is meant to propose basic guidelines that can be applied in any developing country.  It is flexible enough for countries to interpret these guidelines in light of their own demographics, geography, and customs, yet rigid enough to maintain a high level of humaneness toward animals.  It also acknowledges economic value to humans, and a realistic attitude toward the relative positions of animals in the human world.


The first thing to do when constructing a new piece of legislation, and often the first thing that appears in any piece of legislation, is to provide a list of definitions.  These are helpful to narrow down the purview of the act, and to allow the legislation to be more efficient in its enforcement.  For example, if a piece of legislation seeks to protect “animals” from needless killing, it is possible that it could be used for purposes as diverse as  prosecuting war crimes against humans and controlling rodent infestation. Therefore, it will be important at the outset to figure out which definitions should be supplied to be as specific as possible in application, and which should be left open to judicial interpretation.

Certain words do not easily lend themselves to simple definitions as well as do others.  A word such as “cruelty”, for instance, which most would agree is an integral word to include in an animal welfare statute, can mean very different things to different cultures.  The best way to deal with a word like this would be to supply a short definition that could be lengthened by an implementing nation given its particular circumstances.  Other words that will likely fall into this category are “unjustified”, “abuse”, “inhumane”, “abandon”, “pain”, and “euthanasia”.

Many other words, however, will lend themselves much more easily to definition, and these should be supplied broadly wherever possible.  Again, these may be open-ended enough to allow room for judicial interpretation, but strict enough so that loopholes are not easily found.  An example is the word “companion animal”.  While the types of animals kept as pets will vary from country to country, a definition should be supplied that is wider-ranging than simply listing the species included.  That way, when devising regulations as to care and licensing, law enforcement will immediately know which animals are covered by the act and which are not.  Thus, for example:

“Companion animal” means animals kept in or near the household for the primary purpose of companionship for member(s) of the household.  This includes, but is not limited to, dogs, cats, and parrots.  Dangerous wild animals, including all large cats, bears, and other species designated by the National Agency, shall not be allowed as companion animals.

Using a definition like this will allow law enforcement to make a distinction between feral animals that tend to forage near human property and pet animals that are intentionally kept by humans.  It will also prevent owners from disclaiming ownership where the penalties for abandonment and/or abuse may be high.  Other words that should be defined in this way include farm animal, experimental animal, working animal, 'feral' wildlife, veterinarian, and owner.  After the definitions, there should be a section listing very basic acts which both the owners/keepers of animals, along with the general populace, should not do to animals.  It addresses the basic necessities of providing food, water, and shelter to animals, and the goal of preventing cruelty to animals.  These provisions are simple enough that if no other part of the statute is heeded, the lives of animals in a given country will be improved if the citizens follow the directives in this section.


The specific duties toward companion animals should be outlined next.   First, the duties of ownership should be listed.  This encompasses categories such as proper care, licensing, veterinary care, vaccinations, and maximum number of pets that may be owned by any one owner/family.

Under proper care, subcategories for provision of space, food, and exercise should be detailed.  Obviously, the amount of space required by a dog and a parrot are somewhat different, and this will also be the case for different breeds of dog.  A country should seek guidance from a scientist or behaviorist in determining the proper amount of space needed, but at a minimum, this should be enough space for the animal to turn around and stand up in comfort.  Dogs and cats should not be kept primarily in cages (although exceptions can be made for crate-training and traveling).  There should be a maximum number of hours set for which a dog or cat may be kept in a cage without access to food or water.  This should reflect the reality of the work day in each particular country.  Exceptions may be granted in limited circumstances where the animal is provided with proper space and constant access to food and water.  Most pet birds will obviously be kept in cages, but the cage must meet certain minimum requirements for space, access to food and water, and environmental enrichment.  Again, behaviorists should be consulted when determining the type of enrichment that should be provided.

For  provision of food, veterinarians and other animal scientists should be consulted to determine the optimum and minimum conditions for feeding of different species and variations within the species.  For example, a Great Dane dog will require much more food per day than will a toy poodle, and this should be taken into account when providing numbers for amount of food given.  Nutritional value of the food provided should also be detailed, but this does not indicate that pets can only be supplied with commercial pet food.  Rather, as long as the animal is not subsisting on human-type junk food, providing food from other sources may be acceptable.  Clean water should always be made available, and easily accessible to the animal. 

In determining the proper provision of exercise for pets, each country must again take into account the cultural norms of its people.  In a country where, for instance, dogs are kept outdoors at all times, it will not be necessary to specify minimum requirements for exercise since these animals will have the opportunity to exercise all day.  This section applies mainly to animals which are kept primarily indoors.  An animal scientist should be consulted to determine the minimal needs of different species, and breeds within the species.  At a minimum, indoor dogs should be provided with the opportunity to exercise for an hour a day, and indoor cats should be able to have free run of the domicile for a certain period of the day.  Pet birds whose wings are clipped should be provided with means for walking, climbing, and interacting with people or other birds; those with wings intact should be allowed a certain period of time per day to fly.

Licensing of pets will be detailed below, but it should be noted that licenses should be mandatory for all dogs, mandatory for cats kept primarily outdoors, and optional for indoor cats and birds. 

There should be a specific regulation banning the chaining of pets outdoors unless it is for brief periods of time and there is ready food and water accessible.  Too many animals in developed nations starve, freeze, or strangle themselves from chains, and this option should be headed off as simply as possible with a wholesale ban.

Regulations regarding vaccination of pets will depend on the diseases indigenous to each particular country.  In countries susceptible to rabies, vaccinations should be required for all dogs and cats, with penalties imposed if the owner does not comply.  For other diseases, a state veterinarian or committee should determine the most worrisome or prevalent diseases in that country and provide for mandatory vaccination where necessary.  The government should work with veterinarians to provide low- or no-cost vaccination clinics where people would be more inclined to take advantage of them.

Provision of veterinary care will be dealt with in the same manner.  Since the qualifications and abilities of veterinarians will likely differ wildly between countries, it will be most helpful to leave the interpretation of veterinary care to the judiciary, with minimum standards set to prevent and alleviate extreme pain and suffering of pets.  It is also possible that certain individuals, though not having been through veterinary school, will be sufficiently qualified as veterinary technicians to provide this type of care.  Human physicians may be brought in to care for pets as a last resort.  There should be no penalties imposed on owners who perform medical procedures on their pets because no veterinarian was available, as long as the procedures undergone are deemed reasonable and intended to fix the particular ailment. 

Finally, each country, or where more appropriate, each local government, should set out the numbers of each type of animals that may be kept by a family as pets.  While this will be largely dependent on the size of the owner’s domicile and the ability to take proper care of these animals, certain maximum numbers should be set for each country.  This may be determined in terms of sheer numbers of animals, or by total weight of animals.   For example, one country may forbid the keeping of more than four dogs per domicile, while another may limit the household to 200 pounds of animals. 

The next issue that should be addressed is overpopulation.  This is a pressing issue for many developing nations (as well as developed nations), as companion animals overpopulate and there are not enough owners for all of the offspring.  While the problem may not lie exclusively, or even at all, in some circumstances, with purebred animal breeders, this issue will affect them as well.  First, any available animal shelters should mandate spay/neuter programs for any animals that are adopted out.  There should be no exceptions to this, unless, of course, the animal is pregnant when adopted (in which case the animal should be spayed as soon as possible after giving birth).  In countries where there are no animal shelters, and animals are generally acquired as strays, governments should set up low- or no-cost spay/neuter clinics staffed by veterinarians where possible, and technicians and other trained citizens otherwise.  This may be an expensive endeavor initially, but the decreases in the stray animal population that result will be favorable to any developing country.  It will aid tourism to not have packs of roaming dogs on the streets, for instance.

Second, if possible, developing countries should impose mandatory permits on companion animal breeders.  To avoid the proliferation of purebred dogs and cats where strays need homes, breeders would be required to obtain licenses, costing a not insignificant fee, every time they wished to breed their animals.  This would include both commercial breeders and “backyard breeders”, and would in effect cut down on the numbers of puppies and kittens born every year.  This might also help stem the advent of puppy mills, if breeders had to pay a fee or a fine for every litter.  That way, female dogs and cats would not be “cost-efficient” to breed more than once a year, since breeding would be expensive.  Also, if breeders insisted on keeping non-neutered animals, the licensing requirement for ownership could be higher than for neutered animals, thus discouraging people from leaving their pets intact.

Third, there should be a wholesale ban on puppy and kitten mills in developing nations.  While breeding purebred pets might not be economically feasible for many of these countries anyway, an all-out ban would prevent these industries from entering developing countries, and stem the tide of “purebred preference” at the source.  This would also cut down on the abuse rampant in this industry, because females would not be forced to breed more than their natural numbers of litters.

Finally, this legislation provides for humane “disposal” of unwanted pets.  Realistically, this will entail the creation of animal shelters to provide adoption services wherever possible and the provision of humane euthanasia where there is no funding for animal shelters.  Humane euthanasia must be defined, with the appropriate methods outlined in the statute, and must lead to instantaneous and/or painless death.  The euthanasia must be carried out by trained staff, and there should be a system of checks to ascertain periodically that the euthanasias are being carried out properly.  Euthanasia should be thought of as a last resort, and only undertaken for ill or dangerous animals, or when there is absolutely no alternative because of lack of funding.

This legislation also details provisions for the regulation of dangerous dogs.  First, there is no allowance for breed-specific dog bans.  For example, a country may not ban all pit bull terriers wholesale.  There are several reasons for this: there is no bright-line rule governing which breeds of dogs are dangerous and which are not; such a rule would make owning these dogs more palatable to people who should not own them, simply because they are forbidden; the rule would simply lead to the indoctrination of another breed as the “rebellious” type of dog to own; and this rule would lead to the euthanasia of many dogs based solely on breed, and not on temperament.  Instead, animal shelters should when possible perform temperament tests on all dogs before adopting them out, and only adopt the animals who pass.  Where possible, dogs that are judged to be “borderline” should work with trainers and only be adopted out to suitable owners (i.e. no children, no additional dogs, etc.).  If an individual dog is judged to be vicious, the country will have some leeway in adopting regulations to punish the dog’s owner.  These may range from a one-strike-you’re-out rule to a sliding scale according punishment based on the severity and frequency of the attacks.  Animals may be euthanized if a judge deems them to be vicious, but a more promising punishment would be to prevent the owner from keeping her dog, or for more severe crimes, from ever again owning dogs.  A country may impose more severe punishment on the dog and its owner if it harms or kills a human than if it harms or kills another animal.

The legislation should provide for regulations regarding the abandoning of pets.  It is acknowledged that what constitutes “abandonment” will depend on the species, whether food and water were provided, the state of the neighborhood, and the owner’s intention.  For example, an owner without family who is suddenly taken to the hospital should not be subjected to the same punishment for leaving his dog alone as an owner who willfully left his pet alone in a house without food or water for several days.  Repercussions for abandoning one’s pet can range from the removal of the individual animal to an injunction against animal ownership in the future.

Finally, the legislation provides regulations for dealing with companion animal abuse.  Again, this term is open to judicial interpretation.  One can envision a country that would deem hitting an animal during a training exercise as permissible, and one that would forbid any corporal punishment whatsoever.  Therefore, each country should work to implement guidelines to define levels of abuse toward animals.  Because of the known link between abuse of pets and abuse of spouse and children, a convicted animal abuser should be subjected to a psychological evaluation and should be required to submit to an inspection of his domicile.  The animal should be removed from the household where it appears that the abuse may recur.  Any other animals owned by the abuser or his family should also be removed when deemed necessary.  In severe cases, the owner should be forbidden to own animals in the future. These animals should be kept in an animal shelter until such time as a nonabusive co-owner can reclaim them (for example, if a battered spouse is able to establish her own household apart from the abuser), or if this is not a possibility, the shelter should attempt to adopt out the animals.  If the animals are so physically injured that they are living in constant pain or if they will not be able to live peacefully in a human domicile again for fear of further abuse, they should be humanely euthanized.   In addition, if animals are taken from an owner who is deemed to be a hoarder (keeping too many animals), the animals may be removed and the owner subject to psychological evaluation.


The definition of ‘feral’ wildlife will of course be very dependent on the country, its habitat, and the culture regarding animals.  This legislation will not include provisions for ‘pure’ wildlife, since these animals will likely be covered by other national legislation, as well as international treaties and agreements.        

To start, ‘feral’ wildlife means animals that were once domesticated but which have reverted to their natural state.  In many countries, this primarily includes dogs and cats, but may be extended to any other previously “owned” animal that is roaming at large.  Control of populations of these animals is of utmost importance to many developing countries, since tourism may hinge on the perception of safe streets, and packs of wild dogs roaming the streets does not help this image. 

As noted under the section about companion animals, veterinarians and other trained personnel should be brought in to develop a comprehensive spay/neuter program for these animals.  A volunteer corps may be devised to bring in and monitor the animals before, during, and after the procedure.  While the animals are held, they should be vaccinated for rabies (if it is a problem in that country) and any other dangerous disease.  Particularly docile individuals may be adopted out if space exists at animal shelters.  Citizens should be discouraged from feeding or caring for these animals unless they have proper information about the program in place.  Information pamphlets and other media should be distributed to the populace annually about how to deal with these animals, including public health concerns, safety, and the closest spay/neuter program. 


Developing nations will need varied regulations depending on the status of scientific research in those countries.  For countries that have limited means to conduct scientific research, there will need to be very few regulations under this section, whereas for countries who are becoming players in the biomedical field, the legislation will need to adopt more specific requirements.  Regulations on animals used in education will also be dependent on the status of education in those countries.

In the educational field, this legislation should prohibit dissection in schools through the high school level.  It is arguable that students at such a young age learn anything about anatomy through dissection, and even if they do, computer programs and detailed drawings can provide similar information at the same or lesser cost to the schools.  Developed nations, and especially animal welfare organizations concentrating on dissection-choice in these countries, should provide economical alternatives to dissection to these developing nations.  It might also be possible to encourage corporations who make these alternatives to provide them to these countries at no cost in exchange for advertising or the continued provision of other products.  For example, if a computer company manufactures anatomy software, it could provide this software to developing nations in exchange for them buying other kinds of their software when needed for another use.  Of course, this issue will be largely dependent on whether the schools even have computers, or the means to implement dissection-alternatives at all.  Detailed books should be provided where computers are not accessible, as well as tangible models for tactile learning.  In a nutshell, at the elementary and high school level, the focus should be on the provision of alternatives to dissection.  If a country does not have a well-developed program for teaching science, it should receive aid from developed nations as to implementing this program without the use of dissection.

At the university level, dissection may be allowed, but again, students must be permitted to opt out with no detriment to their grades.  Where live animals are used in any experiments, the university should be required to teach more about the animal than simply its anatomy: learning about its behavior, habitat, and ecology may help to generate more respect for the animal than simply learning about its anatomy.

In considering scientific research on animals, the first issue that must be considered is what already exists in each nation.  If a nation does not conduct any, or very limited, research, regulations may be adopted to prevent developed nations from outsourcing labor to this country.  For example, the use of great apes in experimentation (including chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans) should be strictly prohibited at the outset.  This will prevent the wild-capture of these animals for the use in labs and may encourage non-invasive research such as cognitive studies to lead to better understanding of the species.  For countries that have a large number of “attractive” animals for research, prohibitions on exportation of these animals to countries which do conduct research will aid in keeping the developing nations appealing to tourism.

For countries that have some research setting, more specific regulations will be necessary.  First, there should be a prohibition on the use of the same animal in more than one painful experiment.  Where an animal has undergone a painful procedure and results have been obtained, the animal must be retired if it can live the rest of its life painlessly, or humanely euthanized if it is experiencing chronic pain.  Second, anesthesia must be provided for painful experiments.  If the use of anesthesia would compromise the experimental protocol, the researcher must submit a detailed request for exemption and the necessity of the experiment must be carefully balanced against the animal’s pain and suffering.  The inability to afford anesthesia is never an excuse: if the laboratory does not have the money for analgesics, they should not be conducting these painful experiments in the first place.  Third, careful attention should be paid to make the animals’ lives as comfortable as possible while they are living at the laboratory.  This means both physical and psychological well-being should be studied.  This will be species-specific, but each country engaging in research should develop a set of regulations for each species commonly used in research.   No species should be exempted from these requirements.  There should be a system of checks to determine if each laboratory is in compliance, with inspections taking place at least once a year.  If a laboratory claims to not have the means to provide such care, they should not be permitted to keep these animals for scientific purposes.

All animals used in research must be captive-bred.  This is to prevent, on the one hand, pet theft for the sale of dogs and cats into research, and on the other hand, removal of wildlife from its natural state.  Animals that are kept for breeding must be bred no more than is common for the species in its natural state, and the living conditions for these animals must be optimal. 

Where possible, animals who have completed their experiments must be adopted out to suitable homes or sanctuaries.  Laboratories should provide for retirement facilities that include food, water, and ample space and society for “retired” animals.  This may also be provided by the government.  Once an animal is retired, under no circumstances may it be recalled into further research, unless a simple examination is necessary for the results of the experiment already performed.

Alternatives to experimentation must be utilized wherever possible.  The three Rs: replacement, reduction, and refinement, must be considered whenever a researcher is developing an experimental protocol.  If there is a suitable alternative to animal experimentation, even if the initial costs are greater, it must be considered.  If the researcher deems the alternative to be inappropriate, she must provide a committee with a detailed explanation of why this is so.  A committee can then choose to allow the experiment to go forward using animals, to mandate the use of the alternative, or to disallow the experiment altogether. 


The animals that can be listed as agricultural, or farm, animals will differ from country to country.  In general, the legislation should define a farm animal as any animal that is kept to provide meat, milk, eggs, leather, fur, or any other body part or fluid for human or animal consumption.  This should encompass all possible species that any country’s people keep on a farm.

Many developing countries will still primarily think of the family farm when considering farms.  The first important part of the legislation, then, will be to ban factory farms from existing in developing nations.  This way, developed nations will not be able to outsource their meat production to other countries.  Because factory farms have so many negative implications, including inhumane animal treatment, poor environmental impact, bad working conditions for employees, and rampant use of hormones and other medications for animal growth, cutting this industry off before it can expand to developing countries will be the most expedient way to prevent its growth.    There can be a general definition given for “factory farm”, but it is possible that legislators can derive an “I know it when I see it” type of test to determine when a family farm is about to cross the line.

One way to prevent the influx of factory farms in developing nations is to limit or eliminate the use of cages on farms.  A typical family farm will not keep animals in cages unless it is for the animals’ own protection from predators.  Traditional pens, stalls, coops, and the like will be permissible, but any enclosure must give the animal ample room to move, exercise, and associate with others of its species.   Animal behaviorists should be consulted when determining the proper care and keeping of farm animals.  In particular, if animals exhibit unusual signs of stress, this should be an indication that changes need to be made to the conditions on the farm.

There should be an explicit ban on painful, invasive, or on-going procedures on these animals.  One technique that comes to mind is the bears kept chained in China for their bile.  The bears would fall under the category of farm animals since they are being kept to produce a bodily fluid, and so these “farmers” can be regulated under this section.  Chaining of any sort that does not allow the animal free range of movement is not permissible, and so the “farmers” would need to find a less invasive method for obtaining the bile, or they must be prohibited from doing so altogether. 

If farm animals must be transported elsewhere for growth or slaughter, the means of transport must be strictly regulated.  Food and water must be provided at regular intervals, the time frame depending on the species involved.  The transports must make regular stops to allow the animals to exercise outside before reloading.  Nonambulatory animals may not be transported under any circumstances.  When animals are injured en route, veterinary care must be provided immediately, and under no circumstances may injured or sick animals be abandoned without help.  If the injury or disease is serious or contagious, the animal must be humanely euthanized as soon as possible.  When animals die en route, they must be sanitarily removed as quickly as possible and the bodies tested to determine if the cause of death may spread to the other animals on board.  Where possible, however, farm animals should not be transported en masse at all, and governments should work to allow husbandry and slaughter to take place at the same location.

There must be minimum standards set for humane slaughter of farm animals, keeping in mind cultural and religious traditions.  The most basic regulation, which cannot be violated, is that animals must either be fully anesthetized before they are killed or death must occur instantaneously.  This should encompass any cultural and religious traditions for slaughter, while allowing for the greatest degree of humane treatment possible.  There should also be a system implemented for double-checking each animal for accuracy in causing unconsciousness or death.  Under no circumstances should a conscious animal be permitted to progress to a painful death, nor should a supposedly instantaneous death ever last more than a few seconds.  Additionally, these regulations, and others more specifically dealing with human workers, should allow for less turn-over in slaughterhouse workers.  Slaughterhouses in America currently have a 100% turnover rate for workers, much of which is due to the psychological and emotional stress suffered when animals are not killed properly or workers find that lives are being endangered or  demeaned.  Therefore, providing for humane treatment of animals in slaughterhouses should also benefit people: both with better meat (stress at time of death tends to cause lower-quality product) and better jobs.

A few specific wholesale prohibitions should be implemented before a developed country has a chance to bring its practices overseas.  No growth hormones should be permitted for animals used for their meat.  This prohibition will lead to healthier meat for people, and more humane lives for animals.  Calves should not be kept in tiny stalls for veal production.  If veal is a desired commodity, farmers must raise the calves as they would any other and slaughter them at an appropriate time.  Geese may not be force-fed to provide foie gras.  Again, if this delicacy is desired, the geese must be raised and fed traditionally, with humane slaughter to end the lives.

Finally, because of the environmental implications of raising animals for food, serious consideration should be given to encouraging citizens to limit meat consumption.  The land saved can be used to produce vegetables and other crops, and water use will also decrease.  Where religious rituals require the consumption of meat, this should be acknowledged, but otherwise, the country should try to provide healthy alternatives to decrease meat eating in general.


The definition of working animals is, again, rather broad, and also quite dependent on the particular country implementing the legislation.  As a general definition, a working animal can be thought of as an animal performing any activity that it would not normally perform in its natural state.  This will encompass animals that carry  humans and other loads, performing animals, and animals trained for specific purposes such as guide dogs.  As a guideline, this section can also be said to cover any animals that participate in an activity that humans pay money to see.  One can envision animals as diverse as oxen, camels, racehorses, fighting cocks, circus elephants, seeing-eye dogs, and animals in movies being covered by this section.        

First, there should be a direct prohibition on circuses including large mammals, both traveling and stationary.  Petting zoos are permissible if certain regulations are met as to the care and feeding of the animals.  What distinguishes a circus is the forcible training of the animals to perform tasks that are out of the ordinary for their species.  If the countries already have circuses in effect, they should be investigated for the humane treatment of the animals, and if they are found lacking, they must be dismantled and the animals sent to a retirement facility.  The regulations that must be met for existing circuses are care, feeding, humane training methods, psychological well-being (including society of others of the same species), careful attention to veterinary care, specified number of hours per day the animal may perform, and appropriate disposal of the animal upon illness, injury, or death.  It is acknowledged that it is important for children to learn about animals, and because of this, educational shows that highlight small, adaptable animals and their growth and development are permissible if regulations on their care are met.  Similarly, animal shelters should be encouraged to introduce children to dogs and cats, and to explain about overpopulation and proper care of pets.

Second, for movies utilizing animal “actors”, every country should mandate a ratings scale similar to the one used in the United States by the American Humane Association.  Production of movies and other filmed entertainment must stop if the humane treatment of the animals is compromised.    All animals used in this form of entertainment must be captive-bred, and producers must comply with breeding regulations.  Regulations in this area should emphasize humane training methods, the protection of the animal and human actors while performing, and proper care of the animal when it is no longer performing.  A system of compensation may be implemented, in which a small percentage of the proceeds from the film go to an organization dedicated to helping animals of the same species.  For instance, if a film features a bear “actor”, a certain percentage of the revenue will go to an organization that is concerned with bear welfare. 

Third, humane training methods must be constantly evaluated and updated.  Trainers must undergo training themselves at regular intervals to keep apprised of the goings-on in the field.  Trainers should always acknowledge species-specific limitations on animal training and not force any animal to perform beyond its capability.  Trainers will also have the most direct access to the animal to ascertain the provision of food, water, and veterinary care.  Under no circumstances should physical punishment be utilized as a training tool.  Rather, trainers should use positive reinforcement and rewards where possible, and verbal directives when necessary. 

Finally, animal fighting, in all of its forms, should be banned.  This includes dog fighting, cock fighting, and in countries that do not already have the sport, bullfighting.  Where countries have a tradition of bullfighting, these events must be heavily regulated to prevent unnecessary harm to the animal.  The animals should be humanely euthanized if they become seriously injured.  Dog racing should be banned unless a country can specifically show that it is a traditional, cultural activity, in which case it must be heavily regulated.  Horse racing must be heavily regulated, and husbandry and training methods must be monitored regularly to ensure compliance.  A country may choose instead to outlaw gambling, which would effectively eliminate all of the activities listed in this paragraph.

Many developing nations will already have zoos, and the practice of keeping zoos should not be banned wholesale.  Rather, legislation should call for regulations to be put in place for the construction, maintenance, and upkeep of zoo facilities, as well as care, feeding, breeding, and well-being of the animals.  Zoos that do not comply with these regulations should be given a short time period to come into compliance: if this time period is not met, the zoo must be dismantled and the animals brought to a sanctuary.  Developing nations should consult with the “best” zoos in other countries to determine proper keeping of each species.  Cages should give way to enclosures, with ample room for the animals to obtain exercise and society of others of the same species.  Ethologists should be consulted as to how to provide psychological and/or social enrichment for each species.  Zoos should strive to become non-profit organizations, with all proceeds going toward conservation, directed breeding, or education programs.


The next important aspect to this legislation is a system of punishment for citizens who violate its provisions.  The specific sanctions will differ in each country, depending on availability of law enforcement, judiciary, and the ability of citizens to pay fines.  What will be set out is a broad framework that developing countries can use to “fill in the blanks” with what they deem to be appropriate punishments.

Abuse of owned animals, whether pets, farm animals, or animals used for research, should be dealt with harshly.  If the owner is the abuser, the specific animal abused should be immediately removed from the premise.  Depending on the severity of the abuse, the owner may be prohibited from owning other animals of that species, or of any species, in the future.  If the abuse is toward a pet, law enforcement officials should look into the welfare of the children, spouse, or elders in the household.  In countries where veterinary services are widely utilized, veterinarians should be trained to recognize animal abuse and mandated to report it to the appropriate officials.  Veterinarians, and other concerned citizens reporting animal abuse, should be given immunity and anonymity in court when testifying.  Likewise, human physicians handling child, spousal, or elder abuse cases should report this to an animal welfare agency or law enforcement so that the animals in the household may be checked.  If the abuse toward the animal is so severe that it leads to permanent injury or death, the perpetrator should be imprisoned.  If the abuser is not the owner of the animal, the owner may bring a civil action against him for damages.  Again, if the abuse is severe, the abuser may be imprisoned under the criminal law.  The abuser’s own premises should be investigated, and his own animals removed if they are deemed to be in danger.

For violations of other provisions of this legislation, state regulations should be composed to assign sanctions.  One possibility would be a “three-strikes-you’re-out” scenario, where a citizen would be subject to fines or imprisonment if she violated the law three times.  The substantive crime would not have to be the same.  A very severe violation could immediately qualify as two, or even three strikes, in order to expedite the punishment process.  For example, a citizen neglects to provide food on a 36-hour transport of cattle.  This appears to be due to oversight, and no animals die, so this would count as one strike.  The same perpetrator later is found to have a kennel of dogs used in fighting.  If the dogs are well-kept, this may only constitute one strike, whereas if the dogs are chained, underfed, and lacking veterinary care, this can mean two or three strikes, and the owner will be imprisoned or fined.  These regulations apply when the owner is a private citizen, not a corporation.  Whether a country decides to use a fine system, imprisonment, injunctions against future ownership, or even mandated community service will depend on the country’s unique circumstances, but should be kept consistent within that country. The country may also decide whether to treat juveniles different from adults, and if so, on whom to impose punishment when the juvenile is the offender.

When the “owner” is a corporation or public entity, such as a university, state regulations should normally be utilized to determine sanctions.  Violation of licenses and/or permits should result in fines only.  Where the provisions violated involve farm or experimental animals, fines should be imposed, and these should be substantially greater than those given to private citizens.  This is because corporations will, first, be more likely to have the means to pay, and second, because substantial fines will deter future illegal behavior on a large scale.  Since corporations that own animals likely own a lot of animals, preventing or deterring abuse will have a greater impact on the country as a whole than imposing fines on private citizens, who will likely only own a few animals.  Injunctions should also be used handily when law enforcement discovers continued violations of the same provision, even after the imposition of fines.  Additionally, if a particular egregious violation is discovered, and it appears that the violation was intentional, an injunction against ownership by that corporation may be granted.  These injunctions can either apply to ownership of the particular species at hand, or even  working with that species if it is owned by someone else.  The maximum injunction that may be granted is to prevent these public bodies from ever owning any animals again.


There will be a division of duties among the police, prosecutors, private animal welfare agencies, and citizens.  The exact divisions must be determined in light of the circumstances and means of each country.  Local people should be encouraged by the government to form chapters of international animal welfare groups, especially if they can derive funding from other developed nations.  This will lighten the load on the local law enforcement agencies, and may expedite the enforcement of these laws.  The intention of this legislation is not to allow the creation of a citizen brigade to report on and enforce the provisions, because of the repercussions of false reporting and abuse of a reward system.  However, a system of non-monetary rewards may be set up to encourage citizens to report abuse, and anonymity must be guaranteed. 


Citizens should lobby their legislature if they wish to change provisions of this legislation.  The legislature should appoint a review board to ascertain that the legislature is serving the goals it was created to attain, and if it is not, it should be readily amendable.  This amendment process will also depend on the governmental structure of the adopting nation, as will the possibility of citizen comment or ballot initiatives.  Where a country has in place traditional practices that are forbidden by the legislation, the proponent of the activity should apply for preclearance to continue or change it, and will be subject to periodic review.  A system of inspectors should be set up to monitor conditions of farms, research facilities, and other “public” places.

The goal, as noted above, is to set the minimum standards that must be met in each provision, with flexible language open to interpretation by the legislature.  Politicians should consult with biologists, ethologists, veterinarians, and other skilled animal workers to determine what these minimum and optimal standards should be.  A system of information-sharing would be ideal to update and evaluate these provisions periodically.  Implementing this legislation will be the responsibility of the government, private agencies, and private citizens, and enforcement will be an equally important next step. 


While human needs and cultural sensitivity are important to consider when fashioning legislation, there are basic ethical principles that must be abided.  The welfare of animals, be they dogs, horses, laboratory mice, or pigs, must be protected.  The day when a country will be judged on the basis of its treatment of animals may still reside in the future, but humane behavior toward animals forms an integral part of the backbone of any developing nature.  All countries, whether they are formulating a new constitution or improving on their existing document, should consider the positive implications a statute addressing animal welfare would bring to their reputation, governance, and citizenry.


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