Full Title Name:  Comparative National Animal Welfare Laws

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Charles F. Hall and David S. Favre Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2004 Primary Citation:  Michigan State University College of Law - Animal Legal & Historical Center

This paper compares the strengths and weaknesses of the animal welfare legislation in four countries: Portugal, the Philippines, Switzerland, and Taiwan. Following the discussion is a chart that illustrates the main components of each piece of legislation, showing how each defines terms and to which animals the requisite legislation applies.

            Over the last few decades countries from all regions in the world have begun to promulgate legislation for minimum standards of animal protection.   One of the largest driving forces behind this legislation is the growing understanding of animals as sentient beings.   This growing awareness of animals has brought about a tension between traditional treatment of animals as simply property with an emerging understanding of animals as something more than the inanimate objects typical of property law.   These new laws vary in extent and scope of protection.   While some of these laws have proved very helpful in developing a minimum standard within a country, others have proved ultimately ineffective.   This paper introduces some of the strengths and weaknesses of four countries’ animal welfare laws and provides a table for comparison.

            In 1995, Portugal enacted the Portugal Protection of Animals Law (hereinafter “PAL”).   PAL includes several strong features, such as a requirement for municipal licenses for commercial use of animals, and support for legally recognized animal protection associations.   However, one of the greatest weaknesses of PAL is that statutory penalties are reserved for a later special law.   In other words, there are no statutory penalties for violating these provisions until the special law passes.   The special law has yet to be passed.   In essence, Portugal has adopted a law that provides animal protection on paper, but in reality is a paper tiger.   The empowerment of registered animal protection associations to move courts for injunctions to avoid on-going and imminent violations, as well as the excusing of their judicial fees, helps alleviate some of these problems.   This, of course, depends upon whether this action is being utilized; unfortunately, some information suggests that it is not.  

Portugal also tries to balance rights for all animals with cultural traditions that date from the earliest years of Portuguese history.   Some of these cultural traditions involve animal bullfights and horse racing.   Special exceptions are made for these regulated sports that would otherwise be clear violations of PAL.   Generally speaking PAL is minimum in scope.   It does not seem to provide many substantive protections to animals. It does not stipulate the bare minimal treatment an animal in the care of another requires.   This law sets a low bar:   animals are not to have inflicted on them “unjustified violence.”   The enforcement mechanisms also seem to be outside of government responsibility.   While the government is empowered to give licenses to any one handling animals for reasons other than companionship, there is not any mechanism in place to actually impose sanctions.   Sanctions are left for a special law that is not stipulated.   Bullfighting, a tradition in Spain and Portugal , though arguably “unjustified violence” and “unnecessarily inflict[ing] death, cruel and prolonged suffering or severe lesions” to the animal is excepted.

The second legislation examined is the Philippines Animal Welfare Act of 1998 (hereinafter “PAW”).   It provides for protection of animals against maltreatment, torture, abuse, neglect, and pain and suffering.   Most of the duties established in this law are proscriptions for what one can not do.   Interestingly, the law provides for protection of wild animal habitats; destruction of such habitats are listed as a form of cruelty penalized by law.   There is a general prohibition against killing any animal not typically used for food with seven exceptions, which include indigenous religious animal sacrifice, and research/experimentation.  

             A problem with PAW is that it is not being enforced strictly.   In 2003, an official memo was sent out reiterating to municipal governments of their duty to enforce the regulation.   While enforcement of this new law may still be inconsistent, the law has several inherent strengths, including statutory penalties and requirements of a license from the Bureau of Animal Industry for businesses dealing with animals.     There is allowance of indigenous religious or cultural sacrifice of animals, but records must be kept in cooperation with the Committee on Animal Welfare.   Additionally, the Philippines has established a review committee comprising of officials from fourteen different organizations, bureaus and departments to establish the rules and regulations to implement the law.   [Click here for the memo regarding enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 (pdf. 127KB).]

The next legislation examined is the Taiwan Animal Protection Law (hereinafter “TAP”), which was promulgated in 1998.   TAP is quite comprehensive in scope and detailed in its penalties and enforcement.   For example Art. 10, 2 does not allow “any animal race or contest for the purpose of gambling directly or indirectly.” This appears to outlaw both dog fighting and perhaps horse racing.   Similarly, Art. 10, 3 prohibits “any act [against animals] that violates good social custom.”   This language is too vague to precisely understand its scope.   Indeed, in the U.S. it would likely be unconstitutional.  

Killing animals under TAP is strictly prohibited, except for eight stipulated provisions.   These include killing for food or clothing, science, disease control or population control, economic animal population control, euthanasia, protecting human interests, animal shelter population control, and any other reasons stipulated in the law or by the competent authority.

TAP is split into five substantive parts: general protection of animals, scientific application of animals, management of pets, administrative supervision of animals, and penalties.   One of the key strengths of TAP is that a committee is put in charge of formulating animal protection policy and reviewing the implementation of this law.   While PAW has a panoply of different representatives many of whom are governmental representatives, the TAP animal committee is composed at least 2/3 rds of the following nongovernmental representatives: experts, scholars, and civic animal protection organizations.   Another strength of TAP is the requirement to register pets at birth, acquirement, transfer, loss and death.   Like PAL, there is an administrative supervision scheme set up.   However with TAP, the animal protection inspectors have the right to enter or leave facilities to investigate into and ban the activities in violation of the law.   Investigations and bans may not be evaded, refused or obstructed.   Animal protection inspectors may use police assistance if necessary to perform investigations and enforce bans.   Finally, another strength of the TAP is the statutory penalties which stipulate a range of punishments for specific violations.   A weakness of TAP, however, is that it seems that the central authority can override the power of the committee, simply by appointing “experts” who will naturally support their view.

The fourth legislation of comparison is the Swiss Federal Act on Animal Protection (hereinafter “SAP”) and Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance (hereinafter “SAO”) (collectively “Swiss animal protection regime”).   SAP, enacted in 1978, and SAO, enacted in 1981, together, are the earliest comprehensive animal protection regime of the four.   SAP lays the groundwork for animal protection by stipulating guidelines, and SAO implements the guidelines established by SAP.   Together SAP and SAO provide a relatively comprehensive animal protection law that has statutory enforcement and penal provisions consisting of general treatment of animals, animal business regulations, slaughter house procedures, animal experiments, and owner responsibilities.

Strengths of the Swiss animal protection regime are similar to TAP in that both have within the legislation statutory penalties.   Violations of specific articles are given a range of penalties.   Another strength of the Swiss animal protection regime is the thoroughness of issues discussed and the details.   A key weakness of SAP is certain vague terms that are used and are never defined within its text.   However, SAO seems to have taken care of many of the vagueness issues by establishing clear, measurable guidelines.

            The overview of these four countries has revealed that one necessity for animal law legislation is to have minimum statutory penalties included in the legislation.   Portugal ’s animal protection regime is an example of legislation that was well intended and has some good attributes, but ultimately has become a tiger with missing teeth and claws.   Whereas the other three had penalties for violations, Portugal reserved it for a later time.   It seems that the political climate in Portugal changed slightly enough in the interim to prevent the passing of such penal regulations.  

            Examination of the chart below will reveal that different countries have differing animal law issues.   In Southeast Asia , dogs and cats have been used for food in much the same manner as cows, pigs and chickens in the west.   Many governments in Southeast Asia are starting to change this and are working towards outlawing dogs and cats as food sources and fur sources.   As a result, the Taiwan and Philippines cat and dog protection is of particular interest and controversy.   In Portugal and Switzerland , on the other hand,   using dogs and cats for food is a non-issue.   However, all four countries are working to protect these animals by establishing minimum standards for their treatment, which in many cases, raises the bar with regard to to traditional treatment in that particular country.

            Portugal is a country where bull fighting is a national tradition that has a minority, but powerful following.   The bull fights seem to also define a part of the national history.   Because of this, legislation that would prohibit such acts against other animals are allowed with regard to regulated bull fights.   The Philippines , also, has an instance where the legislation makes exceptions for tradition.   In the Philippines , there are numerous islands that are isolated and remain very close to an indigenous, pre-industrialized state.   These regions and islands tend to follow the aboriginal religious traditions that predated modernization.   Some of these religious traditions, tribal traditions, or ethnic traditions use animal sacrifice.   While the animal sacrifice is at times done in ways that clearly violate PAW, the law makes a special exception for these religious traditions, if they are recognized by the government, and the leaders provide details of their sacrifices.

              The previous discussion demonstrates that when a nation attempts to promulgate legislation for animal welfare, an eye should be kept not only on present conditions and hope of where a country should go, but also an attempt to balance sensitivity with traditions and customs that are integral to that country’s identity.   Otherwise legislation may not be passed at all, or the passage of enforcement penalties might be forever postponed as in the case of Portugal .   However, these potential difficulties can be avoided by following the examples set forth by the other three national legislations.     While the Philippines legislation is not as comprehensive as the Swiss or Taiwan legislations, it provides a sterling example of a successful national integration of preserving cultural identity with an emerging respect for animals as sentient beings.   In the end, this is what we can best hope for: a trial and error process that attempts to integrate emerging respect for animals as sentient beings with a respect for past cultural identities that remain important in the present.   The tension between traditional treatment of animals as property and pressure to treat animals as sentient beings will only increase as science and technology reveals the complexity of certain animal species.   With this in mind, it is important to formulate legislation that will provide more protections for animals, but at the same time avoid some of the pitfalls discussed in this essay.

Comparative Animal Law Chart

Actual language from statute in italic.



The Philippines Animal Welfare Act of 1998

Swiss Law (L) & Regulation (R)

Taiwan – Animal Protection Law of 1998

Portugal – Protection of Animals Law – 1995

Animals to which the law applies?

Sect 1 all animals

Art. 1, 2 (L) The Act applies to vertebrates only.   The Federal Council shall decide for which invertebrates . . . the Act shall apply .

Art 3, 1 “Animal” means a dog, a cat and a vertebrate that is fed or kept by people. It includes the economic animal, the experimental animal, a pet and other kinds of animals.

All animals and special laws for specific groups.


  -Definition of Pet

Not defined.

Art 12 (R) “Domestic animals” are domesticated animals of the following species: horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats—not including exotic breeds thereof—as well as domestic rabbits, dogs, cats, and poultry.

Art 3, 5 "Pet" means a dog, a cat or other animal that is fed or kept for the purposes of pleasure and companionship.

Art 8   A companion animal is any animal detained or destined to be detained by man, namely in his home, for his pleasure and as company .

  -Animals in Research

Not defined.

Art. 58 (R)

vertebrates, decapoda, and cehpalopoda which are used for experiments or are destined for experiments

Art 3, 3 " Experimental animal" means an animal that is fed or kept for the purpose of scientific application .

Not defined.

  -Commercial Animals


Although not defined, any person or entity engaging in animal commerce must have Bureau of Animal Industry certification. (see Sect. 2 for list).  

Domestic animals include farm animals and cats and dogs. (see Art 12 (R) for list)

Art 3, 4 “ Economic animal” means an animal that is fed or kept for economic purposes, such as its fur, meat, milk and labor .

Not defined.


General Intentional acts prohibited

Torture, neglect, maltreatment, dog/horse fights, killing, unauthorized research or experiments.   (Sect 6)

Art 2, 3 (L) No one shall unjustifiably expose animals to pain, suffering, physical injury or fear.


Art 22, 1 (L) Animals may not be maltreated, seriously neglected or needlessly overworked.

Art 6 No one shall be allowed to harass, mistreat or hurt an animal raised by others.

Art 1, 1 All unjustified violence against animals is forbidden, being considered as such the acts which consist in, unnecessarily, inflict[ing] death, cruel and prolonged suffering or severe lesions to an anima l .

Intentional Acts Prohibited

Torture, negligent care, sustenance or shelter, maltreatment, dogfights/horse fights. (Sect 6)


See Art. 22 (L) and Art 66 (R) for details.

Art. 12 An animal shall not be allowed to be killed at will. ( Better translation might be, “An animal shall not be intentionally killed.” But see long list of exceptions .*)

Art. 1 All unjustified violence against animals is forbidden, being considered as such the acts which consist in unnecessarily, inflict death, cruel and prolonged suffering or severe lesions to an animal.

Animal - Animal Fighting

No dog or horse fights   (Sect. 6)

Art 22, 2, c. (L) Forbidden to organize fights between or with animals, in the course of which the latter are maltreated or killed.

Art 10, 1. Prohibition on [ a]ny fights between animals or between animals and people through direct or indirect gambling, entertainment, operation, advertisement and other illegitimate purposes.

Art. 3 (1) Need a license from the General Administration of Spectacles and respective municipality.   Bullfights are authorized.

Keeping of wild animals

Not mentioned.  

Sect 7 However, duty of every person to protect the natural habitat of the wildlife.   Destruction of natural habitat form of cruelty (Sect 7).

Subject to local law and national proscription

Not mentioned.

Not mentioned.

Owners Duty to Animal

Sect 6 lists what any person shall not do to animals.   Torture, neglect, and maltreatment are mentioned.

Art 3, 1 (L) Anyone keeping or minding an animal shall feed and care for it properly and, when necessary, provide it with shelter.  

Art 3, 2 (L ) The freedom of movement an animal needs shall not be permanently or needlessly restricted in any manner which will cause pain, suffering or injury to the animal. (see Chapters 3 & 4 (R) for specifications).

Art. 5 [A]dequate food and water and sufficient space…safe living environment, shelter, ventilation, lighting, temperature, cleaning and other appropriate care to prevent the animal from unnecessary harassment , mistreatment or hurt.

Art. 11 . Feeders must provide necessary medical treatment to the animals that are injured or sick.

Not mentioned.

Licensing of Pets provided for

None required for pet owners.

None required.

Art 19 “ shall register the birth, acquirement, transfer, loss and death of the pets…”


Competent authorities include Council of Agriculture of, provincial governments, county and city governments. (Art. 2)

None required.

Control of Animal Experiments

Not mentioned.

Art 13, 1 (L) Experiments with animals which cause the animals pain, suffering, injury, intensive fear or significantly disturb their general condition must be limited to the indispensable extent.

Authorization is subject to local authorities and is limited in time.

(See Art. 12-19 (L)

and Art (R) 58-64)

Requires fewest number and least painful. State can further regulate. Provides for creation of State Ethics committee.( See Articles 15-18 )

Art. 1, 3(e) results in considerable pain and suffering for them, unless in a scientific experiment of proved necessity .

-Require creation of institutional review committees

No. However, the Director of the Bureau of Animal Industry oversees and regulates any business involving animals (Sect 3), and created by this act, the Committee on Animal Welfare of the Department of Agriculture issues necessary rules and regulations for the implementation of the act (Sect 5).

Art 18, 2

The cantons shall appoint a committee of specialists for animal experiments.   This committee shall be independent of the authority entitled to authorise the experiment.   The committee shall include representatives of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals.


Art 19 (L) The Federal Council shall appoint a committee of specialists to advise the Federal Veterinary Office.   The committee shall advise the cantons in the basic matters as well as in controversial cases.

Art 4 The competent authority at the central level shall establish a committee of Animal Protection to be in charge of formulating animal protection policy and reviewing the implementations of this Law.

No.   However, legally constituted animal protection associations have power to compel courts and authorities to action to protect animals. (see Art 10)


Commercial animals





-Cage regulations

None specified in the law.  

Pigs (see arts. 20-24 (R)) and poultry (see arts. 25-26 (R)) have stipulated cage regulations.   In addition Art. 5 (L) has stipulated that large housing systems for animals must receive authorization (for regulations see arts. 27-30 (R)).

None specified

None specified.


Adequate, clean, and sanitary facilities for the safe conveyance and delivery.   Sufficient food and water.   Permit required and no form of cruelty allowed.   Cruelty includes unspecified types of confinement and restraint, overcrowding, placing animals in trunks or under the hood trunks (See Sect 4).

Art 10 (L) Animals must be transported under conditions which protect them from suffering and injury .          


(For regulations on transport of animals see arts. 52-56 (R)).                                         

Food, water, excrement, environment, safety, and well-being must be taken care of.   Competent authority determines specifications on transporting animals. (see Art. 9).

Interestingly, Art 7 mentions transportation only in regards to how public transportation is open to transportation of properly trained companion animals.


Humane procedures at all times….only those procedures approved by the Committee shall be used in the killing of animals (Sect 6).

Art 20, 1 Mammals shall not be slaughtered unless they have been stunned before bleeding.


Preferred method of stunning is instantaneous, unless painless (Art 21)


(For detailed regulations see Art 64 c-i )

Art 13 Animals that are slaughtered according to the eight exceptions shall be treated in a humane way and their pains reduced to a minimum .

(see article 13 for four regulations regarding slaughter)

Art. 13 The competent authority at the central level shall formulate humane ways of killing animals based on necessities .

No mention of animal slaughter, except in regard to stray animals.   Stray animals must be slaughtered using non-cruel methods .   (Art 5)

Humane Slaughter Provisions

Sect. 6

Two classes of animals of differing treatment: those used for food and those not.   Greater restriction on ability to kill those not used for food (see Sect. 6 (1)-(7)).   Regardless of class of animal killing must be done through humane procedures.

Art 21-22 (L) Compulsory stunning and requisite of instantaneous effect unless it is painless.


Art 64 (R) Regulations stipulating stunning methods and procedures.

Art 13 (4) shall be performed in the ways approved by the competent authority.

The competent authority at the central level shall formulate humane ways of killing animals based on necessities.



The Court shall enforce violations of code (Sect 8), the Director of the Bureau of Animal Industry oversees and regulates any business involving animals (Sect 3), and created by this act, the Committee on Animal Welfare of the Department of Agriculture issues necessary rules and regulations for the implementation of the act (Sect 5).

Art 33, 1 (L) The Federal Council shall issue enforcement orders.


Art 70, 1 (R) The Federal Office shall ensure that the cantons implement the Act and the present Ordinance in a uniform manner, throughout the country.

Art. 23 Animal protection inspectors investigate “into and ban the activities in violation” of this law.   Inspectors are appointed by the competent authorities of special municipalities, counties or cities .

Art. 2 Municipal authorization

Art. 3 commercial spectacle authorization

Art. 10 Legally constituted animal protection associations empowered to require to all authorities and courts the preventative and urgent measures that are necessary and adequate to avoid on-going or imminent violations .


Statutory penal provisions (see Sect. 8) of 6 months – 2 years jail or 1,000-5,000 Philippine Pesos.   Aliens will be immediately deported after service of sentence .

Statutory penal provisions for unstipulated jail time or up to 20,000 Swiss Francs.

(See Arts. 27-32 (L))

Art 25-35 Statutory penalties range from 2,000 - 250,000 Taiwan Dollars.  

No stated penalties and no enacted penalties, except for revocation of Article 2 license.  

Art 9 The sanctions for the infringement of this law will be object of a special law .  

* The exception to the prohibition of killing animals:

  • 1. For economic purposes, such as for meat, fur or food of other animals.
  • 2. For the purpose of scientific [experimentation].
  • 3. For the purpose of controlling the disease of a herd of animals or culling in a breeding program.
  • 4. For the purpose of controlling excessive number's of economic animals as approved by competent authority.
  • 5. For alleviating the pain of the animal.
  • 6. Prevent harm to human lives, body, health, freedom, property, or public safety.
  • 7. Animals kept in animal shelters or in the places designated by the competent authority of the municipalities, counties or cities that are not claimed, adopted or well taken care of by anyone after a notice or a public announcement is made for more than 7 days.
  • 8. Any other reasons as stipulated in the regulations of this Law or announced by the competent authority at the central level.


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