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Animal Protection Legislation


Updated December 2014

This section contains information on animal protection legislation at the regional, national and international levels. It includes useful resources, including books, contacts and websites.


This information was compiled primarily to assist animal protection organizations seeking to play a role in the introduction or improvement of laws to protect animals, or who want to utilize existing laws to further their work for animals. It provides an overview of key existing legislation, including an indication of available 'models', and points the way forward for those seeking a more in-depth analysis.


At country level, animal protection can be included in national laws (primary or secondary), regional/state laws and/or local ordinances.

Animal protection should also be included in country constitutions, about which WAN has a separate dedicated project.

Many countries have animal protection legislation, although the extent of coverage, format and enforcement mechanisms (if any) vary greatly. There is much that animal protection organizations can do to contribute to the introduction, enhancement and enforcement of laws in their country to achieve the best outcomes for animals.



How to Advance Animal Protection Through Legislation

Animal protection organizations can use legislation as a powerful tool in their work to protect animals. This section includes both the introduction and improvement of animal welfare laws, and the use of existing legislation.

The Importance of Enforcement

Effective enforcement is vital if existing laws protecting animals are to lead to practical changes in the treatment of animals. Animal protection organizations can influence enforcement mechanisms and sometimes assist with the enforcement process.

Systems, Structures & Democracy

Covers the use of systems, structures and democratic principles for additional influence. Includes issues such as governmental structures, committees, consultation and procedures.

Types of Legislation

Individual countries have a wide variety of animal protection legislation. Animal law can exist at different levels in the country's governing constitution, national law (primary or secondary) regional/state law or local ordinances. While many countries have comprehensive, modern animal protection legislation, some have yet to reach this stage. There is much that animal protection organizations can do to contribute to the introduction and enhancement of animal protection laws in their country.

International Agreements

International legislation, in the form of treaties and conventions, may be made between countries joining an agreement (either international or regional, such as the Council of Europe -see below). This section provides an overview of key agreements.

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe comprises 47 European countries at the time of writing – covering a much wider area of Europe than the European Union. Amongst the conventions of the Council of Europe are five on animal welfare, covering pets, animal experimentation, farm animals, animal transport and slaughter.

The European Union

The European Union comprises 28 European member countries at the time of writing. It was established by the EEC Treaty (Treaty of Rome) signed in 1951, with the objective of safeguarding peace and promoting economic and social progress. Essentially, it is about trade and harmonization of legislation. However, it has introduced a number of measures concerned with the status and welfare of animals. It has also included animal welfare in its founding document.

Useful Resources and Contacts

There are many useful resources and organizational contacts on animal welfare legislation. Model laws are also invaluable guidance tools for animal protection organizations lobbying for improvement. World Animal Net’s Model Act serves as a basic template and guidance document for those interested in enacting new legislation or improving existing animal protection legislation.


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