Animal Law in China

September 22, 2020Zihao Yu

*In this article, "China" refers to four jurisdictions, that is, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau (the Peoples' Republic of China, PRC) as well as Taiwan (Republic of China, ROC).

Animal Law in Mainland China

In mainland China, although there is neither animal welfare law nor anti-cruelty law, animals are protected under different legal methods.

Wild Animal Protection

Wild Animal Conservation Law of the People's Republic of China was released in 1988, and it was amended in 2004, 2009, revised in 2016, and amended in 2018. This law includes the protection of wild animals and their habitat, the management of wild animals, and the liability. The wild animal in this law refers to “rare and endangered terrestrial and aquatic wild animals, and terrestrial wild animals of important ecological, scientific and social value.” Species of wild animals under national conservation are divided into wild animals under Grade-I and Grade-II conservation in the national priority conservation list of wild animals. Besides that, the local governments can publish the local priority conservation list to cover other animals beyond the national list. There are Implementing Regulations on the Protection of Terrestrial Wild Animals and on the Protection of Aquatic Wild Animals. 

Smuggling on rare and endangered animals and their products prohibited from import and export, illegal fishing, illegal hunting, and illegal trade are banned by the Criminal Law in China.

Farmed Animal Protection

There are Animal Husbandry Law, Fisheries Law, Food Safety Law, Agricultural Product Quality Safety Law, Animal Epidemic Prevention Law, Entry and Exit Animal and Plant Quarantine Inspection Law. These laws are designed to improve the agricultural production efficiency, maintain the quality of the production, and ensure public health. There are Implementing Regulations on livestock and poultry slaughter, quarantine inspection, and the prevention and control of pollution and waste of agricultural facilities. Although there is no animal welfare law for farmed animals in China, these laws and regulations can provide indirect protection for farmed animals. 

Other Animal Protection Regulations

The Regulation on the Management of City Zoos is designed for the protection and management of animals in zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, animal exhibition areas in city parks, research sites for breeding, and breeding of rare and endangered animals. The standard of zoo animals is based on Zoo Animal Management Technical Regulations (1986).

Animals used in research are protected under Regulations on the Administration of Laboratory Animals, Guiding Opinions on the Kind Treatment of Laboratory Animals.

Latest Updates

Since 2016, the Notice of the General Office of the State Council on Orderly Stopping the Commercial Processing and Sale of Ivory and Ivory Products requires that all commercial processing and sales of ivory and products shall be banned before the end of 2017.

At the end of 2019, the Yangtze River Conservation Law (Draft) was under review, which may have a ten-year ban on the fishing in Yangtze River to protect the aquatic diversity after publishing the official text.

In 2020, with the influence of the pandemic of COVID-19, China has published a series of regulations for the enforcement of banning the wildlife market including Illegal hunting, trade, transportation, food market, and artificial breeding. in the Regulations of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone on Prohibiting the Eating of Wild Animals, cat and dog meat are also banned together with the wild animals, which led Shenzhen to become the first city in China which officially banned cat and dog meat.

In 2020, the pangolin is changed from the Grade-II to Grade-I in the national conservation list to have better protection. The pangolin is no longer included in the latest version of Chinese Pharmacopoeia (2020 ver.)

Animal Law in Hong Kong

In the common law system in Hong Kong, there is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance,  Dogs and Cats Ordinance, Wild Animals Protection Ordinance, Animals (Control of Experiments) Ordinance and Marine Fish Culture Ordinance related to animal law.

According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, “animal” includes “any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish or any other vertebrate or invertebrate whether wild or tame.” (Article 2) Abusing animals, neglecting animals without adequate and sufficient food, water, shelter and necessary veterinary care, inappropriate transport with unnecessary suffering, and animal fighting is prohibited in “Penalty for cruelty to animals.” (Article 3). However, there is a limitation for the protection —— “the law, as it now stands, was enacted in 1935, and can only be enforced against an owner where an animal has already been the victim of an overt act of cruelty. Currently, nothing can be done under the law to protect animals in serious danger of suffering, unless or until they are seriously harmed.” (University of Hong Kong, 2010)

For the full review of Hong Kong's animal welfare legislation, please see the report here.

Giant Panda
"Giant panda" by lightmatter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Animal Law in Macau

In Macau, the Animal Protection Law came into force in 2016. The Law prohibits and punishes “cruelty and violence towards and the torture of animals and subjecting animals to suffering.” The Animal Epidemic Prevention Law came into force in 2020. (See more here)

“Accordingly, animal owners are in general prohibited from abandoning their pets and must provide food, drinking water, sufficient space for free movement, proper living conditions, and necessary preventive and medical care to animals. One of the most controversial issues that arose during the legislative debates on the law was the mandatory requirement of muzzles in public areas (including public spaces in buildings) for dogs that weigh 23 kilograms or more, or those considered dangerous by the IACM (in alternative to a muzzle, it is possible to opt for a cone collar). It should be noted, however, that dog owners may apply for a license to exempt certain dogs from such a requirement.”

"In addition, dogs must be leashed or put in carriers when in public areas. Also, all dogs living in construction sites and junkyards must be neutered and owners or the people responsible for those sites must cooperate with government authorities when the latter perform their relevant duties in that regard. The law further enlists which animals are not allowed to be used for human consumption and expressly provides for a prohibition of the instigation of animals to fight. Animal usage for scientific research is also an important aspect regulated by the Animal Protection Law, as well as the mandatory registration of animals used in competitions.”

"In terms of liability, perpetrators may face criminal charges, punishable by a one-year term of imprisonment, as well as administrative sanctions of up to MOP100,000 in fines and other additional penalties such as depriving the owner of the animal’s care, the prohibition on the acquisition or breeding of animals for a period of up to 2 years, the disqualification from the practice of commercial activities linked to any kind of animals for a period up to 2 years, and the temporary closure of a given shop or business for a period between 1 month and 1 year.”

(Please see more here)

Animal Law in Taiwan

The Animal Protection Act was published in 1998 and amended in 2018, which is designed for the respect for animal lives and for the purpose of animal protection. This law sets out the umbrella of animal issues for Taiwan. Much of it is so general that additional regulations are going to be required. Please see more here.

In the Animal Protection Act, “animal” is defined as “a vertebrate, such as a dog or a cat, reared and tended by human as a pet, an economic animal or a laboratory animal.” (Article 3.1.1) The “Economic animal” is “an animal reared and tended for the production of fur, meat, milk, or for other economic purposes such as labor.” (Article 3.1.2) The Act sets the liability for an animal owner for providing proper, clean and harmless food as well as adequate and clean water, providing a proper living environment, providing necessary precaution against infectious animal diseases, preventing the animal from harassment, abuse or injury, providing adequate room for a caged pet with sufficient out-of-cage activities,  and providing other proper care, etc. (Article 5.2) Article 6 prohibits the action of harassing, abusing or injuring any animal, and Article 6.1 prohibits any animal performance without the permission. The animal transporter shall “pay attention to food, water, excrement, surrounding conditions and safety of animals being transported while keeping them from panicking, suffering or harm” (Article 9.1) and “receive pre-job training to obtain a certificate for transporting the type of animals” (Article 9.2) and “receive on-job training once every two years after obtaining the certificate” (Article 9.3). Article 10 prohibits animal fighting and using animals for direct/indirect gambling, and Article 11 sets the necessary medical care duty for animal owners. Article 12 prohibits the action of killing animals without due cause unless in the exceptions of Article 12.1, and Article 13 sets the requirement for the killing in Article 12.1 as “Anyone killing animals for reasons in Clause 12.1 shall do so in a humane way to minimize animals’ pain.”

The Wildlife Conservation Act was announced in 1989 and the latest version in 2013. (Please see more here).

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