Animal Law in Laos

July 10, 2021Lu Shegay


Laos is a small landlocked country located in Southeast Asia. Laos has numerous species of animals, including 700 species of birds, 90 species of bats, 500 fish species, 166 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 247 species of mammals. There are some mammals species that can only be found in Laos and Vietnam, which are the giant flying squirrel, the goat-like saola, and the Laotian rock rat. Laos’s biodiversity, like many other places in the world, is in danger. For the last 30 years, approximately 60 species of mammals and 74 species of birds have become threatened or nearly threatened due to various factors, such as climate change, habitat degradation, human intervention, etc.

"Sun bear in the water" by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The cruelty provision

In Laos, there is no general animal welfare act that would regulate the protection of animals. Recently, the country added a new section of animal abuse to its Penal Code. With that being said, the new provision (Art. 353) states that individuals abusing or mistreating animals, including such acts as incarceration without food or water, use of animals for labor without adequate rest, severe beatings, transportation in substandard conditions, cruel slaughter of animals, or the use of poison against animals, are penalized with imprisonment or fines of LAK 500 000-3 000 000 (USD 52.63-315.79). The repetition of the crime results in imprisonment from 3 months to 1 year and a fine of up to LAK 10 000 000 (USD 1052.63).

The amendment has been declared by the government only a few years ago, in 2018, and this provision demonstrates the public and the governmental interest in changing the attitude towards animals. It can also benefit animal protection as it can regulate the crimes against animal abuse. Of course, the enforcement of the provision is another part that might be challenging for animal rights activists who fight against animal cruelty. Many countries of the world, despite having animal welfare acts or animal protection regulations, face other problems with enforcing these regulations, but the inclusion of the cruelty provision to the Laotian Penal Code is an important step in the protection of animals.

"INDIAN GAUR" by cuatrok77 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Wildlife and aquatic life

One of the major issues in the country is the wildlife trade. Laos, together with Myanmar and Thailand, is included in the Golden Triangle, a place where these three countries intersect and a lot of markets sell endangered species and their body parts. Mostly, tigers, elephants, pangolins, and bears are among those animals that are traded. Law enforcement authorities regularly seize endangered species of animals that are put on the market. In 2018, for instance, there have been cases when the officers closed 5 shops and confiscated more than 32 illegal wildlife parts, among which there were elephant skin, tiger penis and bone, wildlife teeth, porcupine stomach, gaur bladder, etc.

Read more: Illegal Wildlife Trade in Local Markets of Feuang and Mad Districts of Vientiane Province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The Wildlife and Aquatic Law provides principles, regulations for wildlife and aquatic animals in nature “to promote the sustainable regeneration and utilization of wildlife and aquatic, without any harmful impact on natural resources or habitats and to restrict anthropogenic pressure on decreasing species and the extinction of wildlife and aquatic, by encouraging people as a whole to understand and recognize the significance, with enhancing the conscientious love, care, and treatment of animals.” (Art. 1)

Art. 2 defines an aquatic animal as “any living creature which lives in the water all or most of the time rely on aquatic ecosystems for regeneration and can be taken from nature for breeding such as Dolphin, Giant catfish, Catfish, etc,” while “wildlife” is identified as “all species of wild animals that generate in nature or are taken for captivity such as Elephants, Tigers, Bears, Dears, Barking deer, Monkeys, Snakes, Birds, etc.”

Rare, near-extinct, high value, and species of special importance in the development of social-economic, environmental, educational, scientific research are listed under Category I of the Law. Beneficial species in terms of national economic, social, environmental interests, and in addition are important for livelihoods of multi-ethnic people and educational scientific research are considered the Category II. Wild and aquatic species of animals that are able to reproduce widely in nature, and are very important for social-economic development, and educational scientific research are under Category III of the Law. (Art. 12)

The government encourages and promotes the use of wild and aquatic animals in scientific research and studies. Those who are willing to use animals in studies shall have permission from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. (Art. 18)

Hunting and catching of animals under Category I are not allowed, except for educational research and breeding purposes, but with a government permit. As for Category II and III, hunting and catching acts are limited. (Art. 24)

Generally, the Law prohibits taking wild and aquatic animals in the prohibition category list, including carcasses, parts, and organs of such animals from its habitats or to have it in the possession; any torment; illegal activities; the devastation of wildlife conservation zones; catching aquatic and hunting wildlife in the conservation zones, and in the breeding season, or when pregnant or with small calves; etc. (Art. 52)

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