The belief in animal rights is the belief that animals, as sentient beings with the ability to experience pain and suffering, have a right to be free of human use and exploitation.

Animal rights is also different from animal welfare in the sense that “animal rights” is the belief that humans don’t have any business using animals for our own gain at all, whereas “animal welfare” is the belief that humans do have a right to use animals as long as the animals are treated humanely without any unnecessary suffering.

In a world full of human suffering, it’s hard to give a shit when you hear about animal activists rejoicing because some town in Spain decided to give the same rights to dogs and cats that human residents have. And now that Minnesotan dentist Walter James Palmer thought it would be a great idea to hunt and kill Cecil the lion, animal rights activists are clamoring for his head.

But between the obviously bad (like the poachers that took advantage of the world’s freaking out over Cecil to kill 5 endangered Kenyan elephants) and the plain stupid (humanizing your pet to the point you refer to it as your “baby,” or “fur child”), where exactly do we draw the line?

We took a look at several cities around the world for a global comparison of how humanity treats their fellow animals. What are the potential maximum penalties for animal cruelty?

What are the penalties for animal cruelty in cities around the world?. Image 1.

We chose 8 CITIES across the globe from Seoul to Harare to retrieve our data.


The five freedoms

The guidelines emerged from a UK investigation into the welfare of intensively farmed animals. Roger Brambell, the lead investigator, stated that animals should be allowed the freedom to "stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs." 

 Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.

 Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

 Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

 Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.

Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.



New York



up to

5 years in prison

and/or $5000 fine

Because animals are not mentioned in the Constitution, anti-cruelty acts for animals are mostly introduced at the state rather than the federal level, making legislation limited in scope and inconsistent between states. State animal cruelty laws generally protect against the intentional harming, torturing, or killing of an animal, as well as animal fighting. However, the treatment of farm animals is usually excluded from these state statutes.

According to New York state’s anti-cruelty provisions, “animal” includes every living creature except a human being. It doesn’t matter if the animal is wild or tame, belongs to you or another person. To cruelly and unjustifiably torture, injure, maim, or kill an animal or deprive, neglect or refuse an animal of necessary sustenance like food or water is a Misdemeanor and is punishable with a fine up to $1000 and/or imprisonment up to 1 year.

Aggravated cruelty to animals, defined as: “conduct intended to cause extreme physical pain, done or carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner,” is a Felony punishable with a fine of up to $5000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years. There are exceptions for research, hunting, trapping, or fishing, as well as the dispatch of diseased animals or animals that pose a threat to human safety or other animals, as well as veterinary care.





up to

3 years in prison

Switzerland has some of the most comprehensive animal protection laws in the world and governs everything from the minimum number of hamsters and parakeets you must keep (at least two) to how you can put down a sick fish (with a sharp blow to the head or by immersing them in a mixture of water, clove oil, and alcohol). Dog owners are required to attend a four-hour course before they are legally qualified to buy a pet, and professional fishermen must attend compassion classes. The canton government of Zurich even employs a lawyer to represent the interests of animals in animal cruelty cases.

Though the Swiss Animal Welfare Act does not explicitly refer to sentience, the concept of animal sentience is recognized in the fact that the purpose of the Act is to prohibit cruelty to animals and the disrespect of their dignity. Unjustifiable pain and suffering are considered to be a disregard for the animal’s dignity, as is anxiety or humiliation, even if the animal lacks the ability to be aware of it. Willful cruelty towards an animal is punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years, and negligent cruelty is punishable by a fine of up to 20,000 Swiss Francs.





up to

3 years prison labor

Though ancient Egyptian law would have you executed for killing a cat, modern Egyptian laws protecting animals are scarce. The Law of Agriculture states that it is forbidden to exercise cruelty to animals, but there is no law that recognizes animal sentience and thus are no statements that refer to the pain and suffering of animals.

Legislation is focused mostly on “labor animals,” such as donkeys, but the Penal Code was amended in 1982 to include domesticated animals such as cats, dogs, and cattle. Willfully killing or harming a riding animal, a carrying beast, a towing beast, or any other livestock is punished by prison labor for up to three years. Incarceration is mandatory as the law does not give the judge the option to consider a jail sentence of a monetary fine.

Poisoning any of the animals mentioned above or any kind of fish would put the individual under police observation for a period of no less than 1 year and no more than two years. Any attempts to commit any of the crimes previously mentioned is also punishable by a fine of up to 200 Egyptian Pounds (approximately $25.55) or up to 1 year of prison labor.





up to

2 years in prison

and $33,000 fine

One of the first countries to recognise sentience in some animals, on the 28th of January this year the French National Assembly voted to modify Civil Law to change the classification of animals from “personal property” to “living beings gifted with sentience.” However, the new amendment only applies to pets or wild animals that have been tamed or held in captivity and thus excludes wild animals.

The Penal Code makes it an offense to physically or sexually abuse, or to commit an act of cruelty to animals that have been domesticated, tamed, or are held in captivity. The maximum penalty is up to 2 years imprisonment and a 30,000 euro fine ($33k). Offenders may also be prohibited from keeping animals for a period of 5 years as well as be prevented from working with animals.



South Korea



up to

1 year in prison

and/or a $8540 fine

It can be difficult to find objective information about animal cruelty laws in Asia due to the controversy surrounding the consumption of certain foods that Western countries find taboo. But moral hypocrisy aside, the Animal Protection Act recognizes that animals are capable of experiencing discomfort, pain, fear, and distress, and people are required to observe the Five Freedoms in raising, caring, and protecting animals. However, this recognition of sentience only applies to a limited list of species such as cattle, horses, pigs, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, deer, foxes, and mink, and many wild animals such as bears and lynx are excluded.

Methods that constitute as cruelty to animals, including killing an animal by any method including hanging, in public, or in the presence of another animal of the same species is prohibited. Other abusive acts of cruelty such as inflicting injury with a tool or a drug, hurting the body of a live animal, collecting body fluid from a live animal, inflicting injury for the purpose of entertainment, or otherwise inflicting injury without a justifiable ground specified by the Ordinance of the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is also prohibited, and is punishable by a fine of up to 10,000,000 Korean Won (approximately $8539.80) and/or up to 1 year of imprisonment.





up to

6 months in prison

and/or a $5500 fine

There are no national laws that apply to animal welfare, and the treatment of animals in Australia is mostly governed by the individual Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Acts (‘POCTAs’) for each state and territory. The treatment of farm or “production” animals is not regulated by this legislation but by industry codes of practice.

The POCTA of New South Wales prohibits persons in charge of an animal from committing acts of cruelty, or authorizing the commission of an act of cruelty upon animals. Persons in charge of an animal are required to provide reasonable care, supervision, and necessary veterinary treatment for animals. The maximum penalty for corporate offenders is a fine of 250 penalty units. Individual offenders may be fined up to 50 penalty units and/or 6 months imprisonment. For Sydney, a penalty unit equals $110. 

Any act of cruelty that results in the death, deformity or serious disablement of an animal, or the animal being in such a physical condition that it would be cruel to keep it alive is considered Aggravated Cruelty and is punishable with 1000 penalty units in the case of a corporation and 200 penalty units and/or 2 years imprisonment in the case of an individual.





up to

6 months in prison

Despite being a member of the World Organisation for Animal Health, there is virtually no animal welfare legislation in Russia. The concept of animal welfare is not publicly recognized, probably due to the fact that animal rights issues pales in comparison to many other urgent problems. The Civil Code of the Russian Federation applies general property rules to animals, and animal sentience is not formally recognized.

Animal cruelty is considered a crime against human health and public morality in the Penal Code of the Russian Federation and is comprehensive enough to cover all animals. Cruelty is defined mainly by two outcomes: injury or death, and are addressed based on if the deed was conducted with malicious or mercenary intent, used sadistic methods, or in the presence of minors and is punishable by a fine in the amount of the income of the convicted person for a period of up to 2 months, or by corrective labor for up to 1 year, or imprisonment for up to 6 months. If the same act is committed repeatedly or by an organized group, it is punishable by a fine in the amount of the income of the convicted person for a period of 5 to 8 months, or by the “deprivation of liberty for up to 2 years.”




up to

6 months in prison

and/or a $200 fine

There is no explicitly stated animal welfare policy in Zimbabwe, but the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Scientific Experiments on Animals Act serves as a basic anti-cruelty act outlining laws related to the prevention of cruelty to animals, but the definition of “animal” is limited to domestic and wild vertebrate animals, including birds and reptiles.

It is prohibited by the act to beat, kick, torture, or otherwise mistreat any animal. Other offenses include driving or using an animal that is diseased, injured, or otherwise unable to do any work, wantonly or unreasonably causing any unnecessary suffering, and causing or commissioning any act likely to infuriate or terrify an animal.


Any expenses incurred by the removal of an animal for treatment by a police officer or inspector, including the expenses and fees of any veterinary surgeon, is considered a “civil debt” and may be recovered from the owner. In the case that the animal in question is so severely injured or diseased that it would be considered cruel to keep it alive, the police officer or inspector is legally allowed to have the animal slaughtered without the owner’s consent, granted that a veterinary surgeon or two “responsible persons” duly examines the animal and gives a certificate of mortal injury. First time offenders are punishable by a maximum fine of $200 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment. Subsequent convictions are punishable by a maximum fine of $400 and/or up to 1 year of imprisonment.

See also: Poaching

However, when it comes to illegally poaching protected animals (like lions), the penalties are much higher. While the hunting of lions is not prohibited in Zimbabwe, hunters must obtain a permit and every aspect of the hunt is heavily regulated by the government. According to the Parks and Wildlife Act, the unlawful killing or hunting any specially protected animal is punishable by a fine and/or up to 20 years imprisonment.



COVER IMAGE via Daria Malysheva