Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Animal Welfare Definition:

An body of law interested in the promotion of minimal standards of animal care including the prohibition of cruelty towards animals.

Related Terms: Animal Rights, Animal Law

A body of law concerned with the prevention if not eradication of all animal cruelty.

"Animal welfare (is) a term embodying the idea that people can own and use animals for their purposes, but that in the course of doing so, animals should be treated humanely and not be subjected to unnecessary suffering; the movement to improve the standards of animal care.1

David Favre, Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law, wrote of animal welfare as follows, immediately distinguishing it from animal rights:

"Animal welfare has as an initial premise that humans have an ethical, moral or religious based obligation to treat animals well, to not inflict unnecessary pain or suffering on animals. It is fairly clear that this premise is not reflected in present laws and that considerable change would be required to fulfill that standard.

"Animal rights has a different premise: that animals are beings with a moral, ethical status just like human beings, and that as a result they should have not just protection of the law (welfare) but be a part of the legal system with rights of their own.

"This focus on obtaining rights for animals has caused considerable problems for those seeking change in the legal system and confusion in the minds of the broader public who are less willing to accept the brash new ideas of animal rights, but are fairly accepting of the promotion of animal welfare."

In 2006, US Senator C. Shays noted, in the Animal Law Review:

"... animal welfare issues that beg legislative attention (include) humane treatment of animals, puppy mills, horse slaughter, the protection and recovery of endangered species, wildlife protection measures, and hunting regulations."


  • Favre, David, Gathering Momentum, 1 J. Animal L. 1-6 (2005). Excerpt re-ordered slightly incorporating a footnote and text from the law report article.
  • NOTE 1: Bisgould, Leslie, Animals and the Law (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2011) page 287
  • Shays, Christopher, Animal Welfare: Its Place in Legislation, 12 Animal L. 1 (2005-2006)

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