International Animal Welfare Laws

International Animal Welfare Laws

As pet ownership becomes increasingly popular in many parts of our world, so do the interest and concerns of experts, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and members of the public about the welfare of companion dogs. Over the past decades, responsible treatment of ‘a (wo)man’s best friend’ has received more attention from academics, policy makers and governments, a number of whom are working to set a global standard for animal welfare.

The World Organization for Animal Health, a global and intergovernmental organization founded in 1924 to address animal health, introduced the Terrestrial Animal Health Code (the “Code”) to improve animal health globally, thereby building a safer, healthier and more sustainable world. Focusing on both the physical and mental state of our companions, the Code considers their welfare to be good if “the animal is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress, and is able to express behaviors that are important for its physical and mental state.” According to the Code, good animal welfare goes beyond disease prevention and vet visits and also appreciates the impact of the animal’s care and environment on its wellbeing (e.g. whether the surroundings are stimulating and safe, whether there is prolonged restraint and use of electric collars, how long the dog is left alone). 

The Code incorporates the internationally recognized ‘five freedoms’ for animals, namely, 

  1. freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition,
  2. freedom from fear and distress,
  3. freedom from physical and thermal discomfort,
  4. freedom from pain, injury and disease, and 
  5. freedom to express normal patterns of behavior (e.g. barking, sniffing).

Following this Code, responsible pet ownership requires us to secure our companion’s freedoms to the greatest extent practicable. The Code asks us to remember that the use of animals comes with an ethical responsibility as well and provides a valuable guidance in good animal welfare and can help us work towards the best possible future for our four-legged friends. 

Many topics addressed in the Code are also reflected in the proposed International Convention for the Protection of Animals (the “Convention”), which deals with all aspects of animal issues, including protection from cruel treatment. Article 7 of the Convention mandates that “[n]o person shall cause a companion animal unnecessary pain, suffering or distress.” Animal keepers are required to give their companions adequate shelter and opportunities for exercise and are prohibited from subjecting the animals to cruel conditions, restraints that prevent them from obtaining adequate food, water and shelter, and treatment which is detrimental to its health or cause unnecessary pain or suffering.

Our animals make a major contribution to our wellbeing and we can do the same for them. A companion dog’s welfare is closely linked with its care and environment. We, as pet owners, can practice good animal welfare and lead by example by making our decisions with Code and the Convention in mind.


  3. Ibid, Article 7.1.1.
  4. Ibid, Article 7.1.2, no. 2.
  6.  Ibid.
  7.  Ibid, Article 4, no. 2(b), 2(c)
  8.  Ibid, Article 4, no. 3
  9.  Supra note 2, Article 7.1.2, no. 5.
Chained Dog Awareness Singapore
Chained Dog Awareness Singapore

Chained Dog Awareness Singapore (CDAS) was established in 2015 as a volunteer-run organization. After seven years of volunteering, CDAS has registered itself as a non-profit organization led by its co-founder Ms Lee Bing and new board directors with legal, vet and entrepreneurial expertise. CDAS rescues dogs from lifetime tethering or confinement in cages. These dogs live in deplorable conditions, such as sleeping in filthy cages with unclean water for consumption, exposure to extreme weather and suffer from sporadic feeding. By the time CDAS rescues them, most of them are in a neglected state with behavioural issues that require rehabilitation and training.

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