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Chapter 1:      Preliminary Provisions

Section 1     Title, Commencement and Conflicting Provisions
Section 2     Objectives
Section 3     Support for Animal Welfare
Section 4     Scope of Application
Section 5     Definitions
Section 6     Fundamental Principles of Animal Welfare


Section 1      Title, Commencement and Conflicting Provisions

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This Act may be cited as the ‘Animal Welfare Act’. [It shall come into effect on such date as the Minister may appoint, by notice published in the gazette.]

This Act will supersede or take precedence over all other legislation with which it may conflict, unless such legislation provides a higher level of protection for the welfare of an animal.

Section 2    Objectives

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The aim of this Act is the protection of the lives and welfare of all animals, and the development of humankind’s respect and moral responsibility for our fellow creatures. This aim includes the progressive development of humane attitudes throughout society, as well as practical measures to protect the welfare of animals and provide a clear ‘duty of care’ for all citizens.
Each animal is recognised as an individual, with an intrinsic value and a life which matters. Sentient animals are afforded special care and consideration to protect their welfare, as they are recognised as having biologically determined natures, instincts, emotions and needs which matter to them; as well as the ability to experience pain and to suffer.

Section 3    Support for Animal Welfare

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(1) The state is obliged to promote and support animal welfare, and the development of a humane ethic, in all areas/sectors whereby it has the authority and the duty to educate, inform, make the public sensitive to animal welfare issues, as well as to support the implementation of animal welfare legislation.

(2) Such promotion and support shall include, but not be limited to, animal welfare and humane attitudes in: scientific research; legal information and capacity-building; educational programmes; competent authority and enforcement capacity-building; rural development and animal welfare-friendly keeping systems; and public awareness activities. Public awareness activities shall include, but not be limited to, consumer awareness, and shall be supported by state action to ensure full and accurate marketing and labelling of any products the purchase or choice of which could have animal welfare implications. It shall also include the dissemination of animal welfare information and advice in veterinary, para-veterinary, agricultural extension, development, legal and environmental work.

Section 4    Scope of Application

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This Act applies to all non-human animals. Chapters 5 and 6, on enforcement and penalties, only apply to sentient animals. It is prohibited to exempt any animal from the coverage of this Act, and any sentient animal from its associated penalties.

Section 5    Definitions

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For the purpose of this Act, the following terms shall have the meaning as detailed below:

  1. Animal: Any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, insect or other multi-cellular organism that is not a plant or fungi.
  2. Animal Protection: The act of protecting the lives or well-being of animals, including safeguarding animals from cruel treatment and acts that cause the animal harm, injury, loss, pain, suffering or fear and distress.
  3. Animal Sanctuary: A facility which cares for abused, neglected, unwanted, or otherwise vulnerable animals, protecting them for the rest of their lives in conditions as close as possible to the relevant species’ natural habitat. Unlike animal shelters, sanctuaries do not aim to rehome animals, and unlike wildlife rehabilitation centres, do not aim to release rehabilitated animals back into the wild. The term ‘Animal Sanctuary’ can only be used where the facility in question is operated by a charitable, non-profit animal welfare organisation.
  4. Animal Shelter: A facility to house and keep abandoned, rescued, unwanted, lost or homeless animals which safeguards their well-being and provides necessary care and attention until the animals can be reunited with their owners, adopted or rehomed. The term ‘Animal Shelter’ can only be used where the facility in question is operated by a charitable, non-profit animal welfare organisation.
  5. Animal Welfare: How an animal is coping with the conditions in which he/she is living. For animal welfare to be satisfactory, the animal must be in a state of overall well-being, which is a condition of physical, mental and emotional harmony, and which includes the ability to live naturally and to meet all species-specific and ethological needs: This would include the provision of the Five Freedoms under Section 6 (3) 1.
  6. Animal Welfare Inspector: A professionally qualified and competent officer appointed by the Competent Authority to execute the subject Act.
  7. Commercial Companion Animal Breeder: Any person
    1)     Breeding companion animals in a location other than a family home; or
    2)     Having more than three unsterilised female animals in their home, any of which is used for the purposes of breeding which breed two or more litters in any 12 month period.
  8. Companion Animal (or ‘Pet’): Any domesticated animal socialised and commonly kept, cared for, or possessed by humans within the sphere of the household for companionship, pleasure, protection or personal assistance.
  9. Competent Authority: The regulatory authority that has the legally delegated or vested authority, capacity, or power to perform the designated functions.
  10. Domestic Animal: Any animal of a species that has been tamed or selectively bred over many generations and kept by humans for companionship, food, fibre, or work; including those that have been abandoned or gone astray.
  11. Euthanasia: A procedure to put an animal to death painlessly in order to relieve suffering from a terminal illness or incurable condition. The method used should involve minimal restraint and stress for the animal.
  12. Farmed Animal: Any domestic or wild animal which is normally kept and raised on farms, and is kept for the production of any animal products (i.e. food, feed, fur, feathers, leather, skin, wool and fibre) or for the breeding of animals for such production.
  13. Game Animal: A land mammal or bird, either in the wild or farmed, which is hunted for sport or food, and is not normally considered to be a domestic animal.
  14. Humane Killing: A procedure which induces either the instantaneous death of an animal or which uses stunning or anaesthetisation that renders the animal unconscious and insensible until death supervenes. In both cases, this must be accomplished with the absence of pain, suffering, fear or distress; including during the period of induction of unconsciousness, where this is not immediate. ‘Humane Killing’ implies the use of appropriate measures/methods and suitable tools/means or equipment, applied by operators with the necessary training and expertise.
  15. Intervention: Any procedure resulting in damage to or the loss of a sensitive part of the body or the alteration of the bone structure.
  16. Keeper: Any person who is responsible for the animal, its health and well-being either on a permanent or on a temporary basis or has an animal in (his/her) care or under (his/her) supervision/control.
  17. Minister/Ministry: The Minister/Government Department in charge of the government department which has been specified as responsible for the animal welfare remit in question. Factors to consider in this regard are discussed at paragraph IV. 1. above.
  18. 'Pest’ Animal: An animal with characteristics that humans deem to be damaging or unwanted.
  19. Pet Shop: Any mercantile establishment or enterprise where companion animals (pet animals) can be purchased, including both premises and ‘virtual’ or online sales, but excluding animal shelters and pounds
  20. Pound: A place where stray animals may be officially taken and kept until claimed by their owners.
  21. Precautionary Principle: A precautionary or cautious approach which must be taken in the interests of animal welfare for each and every case where an action, policy or provision has a suspected risk of causing damage or harm to an animal or its welfare, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action, policy or provision is not detrimental.
  22. Ritual and/or Religious Slaughter: The slaughter of animals for the production of specially prepared foods, mostly for Kosher and Halal meats in the Jewish and Muslim traditions, respectively. The prescribed method involves throat cutting, allowing the blood to drain out, causing the animal’s death. [Some religious traditions permit reversible (non-fatal) pre-stunning, whereas others do not permit any stunning. Slaughter by bleeding without pre-stunning has been found to impair welfare, and thus may be banned or severely restricted. There are also a number of other requirements which must be met in order for slaughter to comply with Jewish or Muslim rite. However, an animal welfare law is not the place to establish such religious criteria.
  23. Sentience: The capacity to perceive or feel things. Sentient beings share with us consciousness, feelings, emotions, perceptions – and the ability to experience pain, suffering, fear, distress and states of well-being.
  24. Slaughter: The killing of an animal for the purpose of the production of meat, food and/or other animal products and by-products.
  25. Stray: Any domestic animal (most commonly dogs or cats) not under direct control by a person or not prevented from roaming.
    There are three types of stray dogs/cats:
    1)     Free-roaming owned – not under direct control of, or restriction by, a person/owner at a particular time;
    2)     Free-roaming with no owner or keeper; and
    3)     Feral – a domestic dog/cat having returned to an untamed state from domestication, in particular after escape from captivity or after abandonment.
  26. Stunning: A process which, when applied to an animal, causes immediate loss of consciousness which lasts until death.
  27. Trap: Any device or enclosure that is designed to close upon, hold fast, confine, or otherwise capture an animal, whether or not the device or enclosure results in capture.
  28. Veterinarian: A person who has successfully graduated from a recognised faculty of veterinary medicine and is officially registered, certified or licensed to practice as a veterinarian.
  29. Wild Animal: Any animal with the exception of a domestic, companion, stray or feral animal.
  30. Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre: A facility for receiving injured, ill/diseased, abused, orphaned, rescued or domesticated wildlife for caring and treatment in order to restore former health and capacities and to subsequently secure the release into a sustainable safe natural environment.
  31. Zoological Garden (Zoo): A park or an institution, which must be accredited by the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA), in which living animals are kept in captivity and usually exhibited to the public.

This is not a comprehensive list of definitions. For example, it could be extended to include some more abstract and ambiguous terms such as

    • Intrinsic – The inherent value of something independent of its worth (or usefulness) to anybody, or anything else; or
    • Well-being – A multidimensional state that includes indicators from three broad criteria:
      • A high level of biological functioning.
      • Freedom from suffering (in the sense of fear, pain, distress and other negative experiences).
      • Positive experiences such as comfort and contentment. It is part of good animal welfare, along with fitness.

Following the guiding principles of the five freedoms, important contributory factors to well-being could be said to include: The absence of pain, suffering, injury, disease and discomfort as well as of fear and distress; the freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition as well as the freedom to express normal behaviour and exercise all somatic functions.

Section 6    Fundamental Principles of Animal Welfare

Go to Explanatory Notes

(1) Based on the objectives mentioned in Section 2 of this Act, the State and all citizens must recognise animals as beings with an intrinsic value and a life which matters; and sentient beings as having biologically determined natures, instincts, emotions and needs which matter to them; as well as the ability to experience pain and to suffer.

(2) Animal welfare is an important aspect of any developed society, and reflects the degree of moral and cultural maturity of that society. Humans therefore have a moral responsibility to respect, protect and care for animals; ensuring their welfare to the greatest extent practicable. This ‘duty of care’ should be reflected in any implementing regulations (and Welfare Codes’, standards and guidance), and human moral responsibilities codified.

(3) In order to give effect to the fundamental principles of this Animal Welfare Act, every person exercising powers under, applying or interpreting it and any regulations (supplemented when necessary by ‘Welfare Codes’, standards and guidance) shall have regard to

  1. the internationally recognised ‘Five Freedoms’, which are included in the OIE’s ‘Guiding Principles’ for Animal Welfare:
    1)     Freedom from Hunger and Thirst and Malnutrition – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour;
    2)     Freedom from Physical and Thermal Discomfort – by providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area;
    3)     Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment;
    4)     Freedom to Express Normal Patterns of Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind; and
    5)     Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

  2. the internationally recognised ‘Three Rs’, which should be applied to all commercial uses of animals, particularly where there are any doubts that the welfare needs of animals can be met:
    1)     Reduction in numbers of animals;
    2)     Refinement of methods (and situations) of animal use; and
    3)     Replacement of animals with non-animal alternatives and techniques.

(4) Where there is any doubt that an animal’s welfare needs can be met, then the ‘precautionary principle’ must be applied, and the animal’s welfare given precedence.

(5) Where the needs of any particular species cannot be met in captivity, then no animal of that species must be kept (unless for a duration necessary to ensure the animal’s welfare).

(6) The different purposes for which animals are kept and used must be regularly re-evaluated in the light of current scientific knowledge and prevalent societal morals and ethical values.


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