animal abuse


The intention of the legislature plays a major role in interpreting a statute. This intention is generally driven by the societal conditions, morals of the society, and certain mischiefs that lead to the need for certain laws to control unwanted situations.[1] When despite the presence of laws related to a particular situation, the situation so targeted, remains unaffected then it indicates towards its inefficiency and eventually asks for either amendment, new laws, or both.

The cornerstones of a strong law lie in the nexus between the laws and morals of a society. Predominantly, laws are drafted based on the morals of society. Though, laws and morals are treated separately in cases of dire situations as well. But, “whenever, morality raises an affirmative impact on society, a complete separation of law and morality is not possible to maintain balance. The law aims to provide justice to people and justice in its popular meaning based upon the morals”.[2]

Therefore, the appalling state of animals in India is major because we as a society are sleeping on the rights of animals; with the inability of these creatures to stand for themselves adding to it.

This article will succinctly talk specifically about legal reasons behind the horrendous situation of domesticated and stray animals in India; why animal welfare is equally important to human welfare and the discriminate laws for animals.


Indian legislature provides for laws, and rules, stemming from such laws for offenses related to abuse and exploitation of animals. But apparently, their enforcement is nowhere to see, at least in cases of domesticated and stray animals. Provided further is the crux of some of the provisions provided on such laws and analysis on the same.


PCA, 1960 is the prime legislation for animal laws in India besides the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The following sections have been discussed in light of certain judgments to add weight to the analysis of the particular section of the act.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, was enacted after the efforts of Rukmini Devi who moved a private bill in the Rajya Sabha to replace the then existing Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890. The act of 1890 was not wide enough in its ambit and thus, the current act was aimed at to fill in the lacunae left by the last act.[3]

The objective of this act is, “to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals”. Focusing on the word “unnecessary”, it can be interpreted, that, pain and suffering which is necessary for the eyes of humans can be inflicted. The legal touchstones to decide what is necessary to inflict pain and suffering on animals; are the judicial interpretations; or, the provisions are given in statutes.

N.R. Nair and Ors. V. Union of India and Ors

In, N.R. Nair and Ors. V. Union of India and Ors, the High Court of Kerala, quoting an ad hoc national committee, observed that, “cruelty inflicted on animals cannot be evaluated in quantitative terms. Therefore, the objective for which a particular activity is being undertaken is an important yardstick, e.g. research for medical purposes and animal husbandry which benefits the society at large needs to be continued even if it involves some cruelty.”[4]

Even though this act seems to be clad with the idea of the welfare of animals, yet the prerequisite is the so-called human needs. This somehow normalizes making animals go through ordeals, totally disregarding the fact, that animals feel emotionally and physically, just like humans.

  • Section 9 (f), ironically, casts a function on the board named as “animal welfare board”, to destroy unwanted animals, whenever it thinks it is necessary so to do.
  • Section 11 is the most contentious provision of animal welfare laws in India. It mentions certain acts and omissions, to be treated as cruelty against animals; further providing for punishments for the same. The punishment provided for extremely brutal acts under this section is merely a fine not to be less than ten rupees which may extend to fifty rupees, in case of the first offense. This fine shall not be less than twenty-five rupees, which may extend to hundred rupees, or imprisonment of three months, or both, in case of a subsequent offense, within three years of the first one.[5]

The fines imposed are so minuscule contemporarily; that a citizen from the humblest of backgrounds can easily get past such acts, without deterrence of the law.

Bali Parida v. NiraParida

In the case of Bali Parida v. NiraParida, the High Court of Orissa added weight to the unscrupulous objective. Here, the unnecessary and brutal suffering of an animal was looked over.[6] In this case, the cow of the prosecution, afraid of a jackal entered the field of the petitioner. The petitioner kept beating the cow, by a stick, brutally, despite knowing, that she was heavily pregnant. The cow rushed in a ditch, where the petitioner caught her tail and brutally hit her continuously.

The court in this brutal case reduced the punishment of the petitioner from, a fine of fifty rupees and one week of simple imprisonment, to twenty-five rupees, in default of which, the petitioner shall suffer three days of simple imprisonment.[7]

  • Section 12 makes it “punishable to inject any substance to ameliorate lactation in any milch animal, which is harmful to such animal, with a fine of Rupees 1000/-, or with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with both.”[8] Even after this, they are injected with oxytocin, a drug enlisted under schedule H of Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, which makes it compulsory for the purchaser to have a prescription to buy it over the counter of a pharmaceutical.[9] Oxytocin creates such pressure on the animals’ udders that it ends up milking out of its capacity out of labor like pain.
  • Moreover, there are certain rules made by the Central Government in confirmation of Section 38 of PCA, 1960, for preventing the overcrowding of animals. Even though these rules widen the ambit of animal welfare in India, yet the punishment stays inefficient, as section 38(3), makes contravention or abetting to contravene punishable with fine which may extend to one hundred rupees, or with imprisonment for a term that may extend to three months, or with both.[10]
The need for the doctrine of proportionality

The doctrine of proportionality needs serious application in case of animal laws. The test of proportionality is to be satisfied, that is, fairness towards the offender and fairness towards society. The principle, that the punishment should not be harsher than the offense committed. But here, it is not even harsh enough to stop someone from committing the crime or even spare a thought before committing it.[11]


Animal cruelty is, making an animal suffer, either by certain actions or omissions. Cruelty can either be in the form of physical pain perpetrated on an animal or perpetuation of suffering, for example, by depriving one’s pet of food.

Cruelty on animals is a common sight, especially in places like India, that it doesn’t seem a deal, big enough to spare a thought to it. Because of their lack of ability to fight for themselves, it is a common sight to see their squeals getting ignored.

Noteworthily, it is not only the animals that suffer, but it is also the humans too. Whenever put to pain, for no reason, surely the animals go through extreme physical pain and mental trauma; but what gets unnoticed is, that the person who does something like this to an animal, without having an iota of guilt, can anytime do this to a human whom he/she finds vulnerable.

Whenever, a person or a child abuses an animal, and sees that creature suffer due to his acts, and still not feel guilty, it becomes quite obvious, that firstly, such person would not mind hurting someone who he thinks is weaker than him, cannot fight back, and can be controlled; and secondly, even after being a witness to the squeals of such animal, if that person, seeks pleasure, then he wouldn’t mind human suffering in the same ways, being numb to such sufferings.

Animal abuse isn’t something that stops at animals. There are empirical findings in criminology which claim, that those who put animals to pain and suffering, escalate to doing that with humans, whom they find weak and easy to control. There are many serial killers, who were found to have been cruel to animals as children. [12]

How does animal cruelty start?

As children, they start with animals and make them suffer, as no animal is able enough to take action for the wrongs done to it. After doing so, when such a person is successful in it acts without having to suffer any consequences for it, he/she tries to do such things more often and eventually builds a habit of making the weak suffer, or killing for that matter. Eventually, such a person grows out to be a hardcore criminal.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, said, “anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives”. As per evidence in criminology and psychology, animal abuse is one of the early indicators of deep mental disturbance. It can also be indicative of the fact, that the person abusing is likely to make humans suffer as well.

History of animal cruelty and anti-social behavior

Contributing more to this dangerous psychopathological indicator, Robert K. Ressler, who developed profiles of serial killers for the FBI, stated that, “Murderers very often start by killing and torturing animals as kids.”[13]

History of the FBI shows that serial killers and rapists have backgrounds of animal cruelty. Also, animal cruelty has been listed as a diagnostic criterion for conduct disorders in the standard diagnostic and treatment manual for psychiatric and emotional disorders lists. The majority of inmates on death row in California’s San Quentin State Prison “practiced” their crimes on animals, according to the prison’s warden.”

Most brutal and notorious serial killers and rapist of all times, like Ted Bundy, Richard Chase, Earl Kenneth Shriner, Gary Ridgeway, Albert DeSalvo, David Berkowitz, Brenda Spencer, and Jeffrey Dahmer among many others had witnessed animal abuse as kids and also abused animals themselves before moving towards humans.[14]

This infers that, animal cruelty is stepping stone towards major crimes against the State itself, which seems due to the fact, that such exploiters become so numb towards suffering and pain, that they do not mind carrying it forward towards those who generally are vulnerable and easy to target. Therefore, it can be further suggested that the State by keeping a check on animal abusers can, to a great extent, control serious offenses.


There exists a rigid dichotomy between the sense of sensitivity for animals and for humans as per the laws in hand for the wellbeing of both. This difference is so extreme that, on one hand spitting in the Delhi Metro under the Delhi Metro Railway (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002, amounts to a fine of Rupees 200/-, which will now be increased to rupees 1000/-.

And, on the other hand, the killing of an animal under section 11(1) (l)  of the PCA, 1960 is punishable with, in the case of a first offense, with fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees and in the case of a second or subsequent offense committed within three years of the previous offense, with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to one hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with both”.[15]

This highlights the extremities with which the two hold importance in the eyes of law.

But, section 377 of the IPC, 1860, tells a different tale, as it makes unnatural sex with animals punishable with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable for fine”.[16]

Though provision seems to be clad with the welfare of animals, as its name suggests, it talks about unnatural offenses, which means that it is so harshly punishable, only because it went against the morals of humans who made this law. Even though the law is a good one, but its intent was not the welfare of animals.


Animal cruelty needs both, social and legal attention. Metaphorically, the condition of animals in India is quite similar to slaves in ancient times. They were just living creatures with absolutely same levels of physical and mental feelings who were anyway treated with absolute disregard towards it. But, with evolution, what would have seemed illogical and hysterical back in time, to think of slaves having equal rights, this started making sense and changes came into being.

The most common reason why animal cruelty is at the peak in our country is the lack of awareness and enforcement of laws that are available for animals. The existing laws and rules on animals not only need strictness but awareness about them as well. As per the current scenario, there needs to be separate provisions and efforts by the government to spread awareness and such helplines that people get motivated to take action against offenses against animals. Even if this is done, it will be effective only when people are sensitized about the cause, as there can hardly be any change without the welfare of animals being a part of the morals of society.

As the father of our nation, Mahatama Gandhi Ji said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.


ashi gupta Ashi Gupta | Delhi Metropolitan Education, Noida


[1]The Institute of Company Secretaries of India, “Jurisprudence, Interpretation and General Laws” 3 (May 2018)

[2]Hitesh Agrawal,  Morality is Backbone of Law: Myth or Reality, Ethics, Morality, and Spirituality, Held On ( India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, January 13, 2012), available at:, (Last Visited on- April 22, 2020)

[3]Abha Nadkarni & Adrija Ghosh, “Broadening the Scope of Liabilities for Cruelty Against Animals: Gauging the Legal Adequacy of Penal Sanctions Imposed” 10 NUJS L. REV (2017)

[4]N.R. Nair and Ors. V. Union of India and Ors, AIR 2000 Ker 340

[5]The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960), s. 11 (1).

[6] Supra note 3.

[7] Bali Parida v.NiraParida, 1969 SCC OnLine Ori 129.

[8] Supra note 5, s. 12

[9]The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, Schedule H.

[10] Section 38(3) PCA

[11]Supra note 3.

[12] Karen Franklin, “Homicidal Triad: Predictor of Violence or Urban Myth”, Psychology Today (May 2, 2012)

[13] Human Abuse Linked to Cruelty to Animals, available at, (Last Visited on- March 25, 2020).

[14] People who are Violent Towards Animals Rarely Stop There, available at, (Last Visited on- March 25, 2020)

[15] Supra note 5, s. 11(1)(l).

[16] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (45 of 1860), s. 377.


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