animals

Recognizing cruelty to animals: what does the animal protection law say?

Cruelty to animals is a criminal offense in Germany, not only in relation to pets but to any kind of vertebrate. Read here what exactly this means and what the legislator is doing to protect animals.


The Animal Welfare Act protects not only pets, but also wild animals like the hedgehog – Shutterstock / Piotr Krzeslak

The Animal Welfare Act protects not only pets, but also wild animals like the hedgehog – Shutterstock / Piotr Krzeslak

The German Animal Welfare Act, which legally regulates cruelty to animals, only applies to vertebrates. Although it is morally reprehensible to torture or kill animals such as an earthworm or a beetle, it is not a punishable offense. On the other hand, anyone who intentionally harms a bird or mouse is breaking the law.

Animal Welfare Act protects animals in Germany

The Animal Welfare Act protects vertebrates such as dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels and many more in this country. Anyone who violates this and commits a criminal offense of cruelty to animals must pay high fines or, in particularly serious cases, even face imprisonment. The first paragraph of the German Animal Welfare Act states that animals are human beings’ fellow creatures and that it is therefore the responsibility of humans to protect the life and well-being of animals. “No one shall cause pain, suffering or harm to an animal without reasonable cause,” the paragraph concludes.

The Animal Welfare Act formulates more precise regulations for the protection of animals and against animal cruelty in further paragraphs. For example, it is about species-appropriate husbandry of animals or slaughter conditions.

Is German animal protection sufficient?

Animal rights activists complain that the Animal Welfare Act is worded too vaguely in some places. For example, in the eyes of many critics, the torture breeding criticized is not strictly restricted enough. Many animal protection organizations also complain that the regulations are too imprecise or insufficient, for example with regard to animal welfare.

The animal protection organization PETA is calling for a pet protection law for this reason in order to be able to better protect pets. In addition, it is important to inform pet owners in detail about the species-appropriate husbandry of their darlings, so that animal cruelty does not accidentally occur.

Those who turn a blind eye to animal cruelty are complicit - Shutterstock / Ksenia Raykova

12/09/2015 – 12:03 p.m

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If you recognize animal cruelty

Some pet owners who torture their animals are not aware of it. They then have misconceptions about housing conditions or how to deal with their pet. If you think you spot animal cruelty, for example on the street or by a neighbor and their pet, you should first speak to the animal’s owner in a respectful and friendly manner. However, in the event of violence or imminent danger to life – i.e. clear cases of deliberate animal cruelty – you should notify the police.

You might also be interested in these topics from the animal category:

Keeping rabbits species-appropriate: This is how the animals feel comfortable

4 reasons for a dog from an animal shelter

Animal Welfare Report: Compulsory castration for outdoor cats?

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