Animal Law in Japan

September 25, 2020Zihao Yu


Japan's main animal welfare law is the 1973 Act on Welfare and Management of Animals, which provides major protection for the animals in Japan, including animal welfare and anti-cruelty. Under the law, four Standards were issued in order to refine the regulation on proper feeding and custody of dogs and cats, animals for exhibition and research, and breeding. The limited protection scope of animals and vague and general statements of the Act weaken the effectiveness of the Act.

The animals are referred to as “living creatures” in this Act. The animals are still within the scope of the property but should be recognized and respected as “living creatures.”

The first Act on Protection and Management of Animals was enacted in 1973. Then the name of the Act changed in Japanese in 1999, and the Act was revised including the management of animal handling business, the definition of responsibility of owners and expansion scope of animals covered by a penal provision related to cruelty and abandonment, etc. In 2005, the partial revision included greater consideration for animals used in research and the establishment of uniformity on the care of specified animals. In 2012, the law was amended to impose stricter regulations on sellers of dogs and cats. The latest version is revised in 2019.

The Name of “AIGO”

“Name of the law was changed with a strong intention of Animal Welfare. The old law was named "Law Concerning the Protection and Management of Animals". While the name of the amended law by direct translation is "the Law for Animal AIGO and Management". "AIGO" is a very common Japanese being defined in the dictionary that it means to think a great deal of with love and is specifically used for animals in such a way as "Animal AIGO". As no English term equivalent to this Japanese is found, the English name of this law will be, if we dare to translate the meaning, "the Law for the Humane Treatment and Management of Animals". Although we have a Japanese term "Fukushi" equivalent to "Welfare", it was not used for this law to avoid possible confusion between human welfare and animal welfare.” - Akira Takeuchi.

The Content of the Act

The fundamental principle of this Act is to recognize animals as living beings, no person shall create unnecessary cruelty to animals, and animals shall be provided proper care and habitat, in order to let people and animals living together.

The Act establishes guidelines for the proper treatment for domestic animals, animals for exhibitions, industrial animals, and laboratory animals. Besides that, this Act also establishes that suffering must be minimized as possible when killing animals. The animals covered by this Act are mammals, birds, and reptiles.

This Act establishes the responsibilities of animal owners for proper breeding and habitat to maintain health and safety. The animal owner shall maintain the living environment for the animals. There are also Regulations of animal handling businesses, Regulation of care of dangerous animals, Taking custody of dogs and cats. The “Be Kind to Animals Week” is promoted by the Act for the awareness about welfare and proper care of animals, which is from Sept. 20th to 26th each year.

The penal provisions regulate the act of killing or injuring the protected animals without reason, neglecting to give food and/or water to protected animals or abandoning protected animals, and keeping a dangerous animal without permission, or operating animal handling businesses without registration.

For more information please see: An Outline of the Act on Protection and Management of Animals.


According to the report of World Animal Protection(WAP), in 2020, Japan received Ranking E in the Animal Protection Index (API).

The report shows that although the animal welfare act exists, the protections the Act provided to animals are vague and limited, and the supplementary standards are not enough for the animal welfare. There is no welfare protection for wildlife animals. There is no further application guidance beyond the Act and the management for animals in captive facilities. The activities of dogfighting and Taiji Cove Dolphin hunting are still allowed, and keeping exotic animals as pets is still popular in Japan. Further detailed standards and regulations under the Act shall be made to strengthen the enforcement of the Act.

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