Animal Law in Malaysia

October 28, 2020Zihao Yu

The main sources for animal law in Malaysia are the Animal Act 1953 (Act 647), the Animal Welfare Act 2015 (Act 772), and Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716).

Animal Act 1953

The Malaysian Animal Act 1953 (Act 647) was first enacted in 1953 and revised in 2006, and the latest version with the amendments were issued in 2013. The Act is to “amend and consolidate the laws for preventing the introduction into, and the spreading within, Peninsular Malaysia of diseases of animals; for the control of the movement of animals into, within and from Peninsular Malaysia; for the control of the slaughter of animals; for the prevention of cruelty to animals; for measures pertaining to the general welfare, conservation and improvement of animals in Peninsular Malaysia; and for purposes connected therewith.” The Act regulates the importation and exportation of animals and birds, prevention of the spread of disease, prevention of cruelty to animals, conservation of livestock, improvement of livestock, as well as enforcement. A person commits an offense of animal cruelty if they “cruelly beats, kicks, ill-treats, overrides, overdrives, overloads, tortures, infuriates or terrifies any animal" under Animal Act 1953. There are exceptions for animals used in agriculture and hunting.

In the Act, the term “animal” is defined as “animal includes horses, cattle, sheep, goats, swine, dogs, cats and any four-footed beast kept in captivity or under control, of any age or sex.” (Section 2) In this definition, only “beasts” are protected under this Act, except birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and invertebrates, and at the same time, the “four-footed” excludes the marine mammals. Wild animals are not included in this Act. However, according to the Part IV Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the definition of “animal” is that “animal means any living creature other than a human being and includes any beast, bird, fish, reptile or insect, whether wild or tame.” (Section 43) The definition of Section 43 is much broader than the definition in Section 2, including bird, fish, reptile, or insect, and includes wild animals, which means that more species are protected under the Part IV Prevention of Cruelty to Animals but not in other parts in the Act. On the other hand, in this Act, “bird” is defined as “domestic fowls, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowls and pigeons of any age or sex and their eggs,” which exclude other types of birds. (Section 2)

Animal Welfare Act of 2015

The Malaysian Animal Welfare Act (2015) (Act 772) was published in December 2015, which is designed to “provide for the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board, to set out the functions of the Board, to promote the welfare and responsible ownership of animals, and for related matters.” (Foreword) In this Act, “animal” means “any living creature other than a human being and includes any beast, bird, aquatic animals, reptile or insect but does not include wildlife under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 [Act 716].” (Section 2) The definition includes aquatic animals in contrast to the Animal Act. In this Act, Part IV Matters Relating to Animal Welfare provides the regulation on the duties of the animal owner or licensee, with the limitation on Animals used in research, testing or teaching, the requirement during the transportation of animals, and the limitation on selling animals to children. Animals shall be provided with the need for a suitable environment, a suitable diet, to be able to exhibit its normal behavior patterns, to be housed with or apart from other animals, be protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease. (Section 24(1)(a)) Part V Cruelty to Animals provides the regulation on cruelty offenses, restriction on the killing of animals, regulation on poisons, and regulation on animal fighting ventures.

Wildlife Conservation Act of 2010

The Malaysian Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) was published in 2010 and amended in 2014 in order to “provide for the protection and conservation of wildlife and for matters connected therewith.” (Foreword) In this Act, “wildlife” means “any species of a wild animal or wild bird, whether totally protected or protected, vertebrate or invertebrate, live or dead, mature or immature and whether or not may be tamed or bred in captivity,” and the totally protected or protected are according to the Second Schedule and the First Schedule (Section 3).


The Animal Welfare Act of 2015 (Act 772) does not prohibit the killing of animals, including dogs and cats, for the purpose of human consumption. According to Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), "There is no explicit recognition of dog and cat meat as legitimate food, or of dogs and cats as animals fit for human consumption, nor is there a clear ban on the sale or slaughter of these animals." At the same time, the Animal Act was criticized "for being weak and under-enforced" and animal cruelty legislation is criticized as ineffective without enforcement.

While Malaysia has three Acts for the protection of animals, Ranking C in the Animal Protection Index (API) which is the highest in Asia of the same rank as India, there are some areas that need to be addressed by World Animal Protection.

Hunting, while legal with a license, is not regulated to ensure animal welfare is a consideration for all participants. Similarly, while wild animals are only allowed to be bred and kept by license holders, there is significant illegal wildlife trade in Malaysia, including the keeping of wild animals as pets. A further concern is an inconsistency in government-led inspections of regulated facilities. For example, scientific research facilities must be inspected every six months, but there is no such inspection schedule for zoos and other captive animal venues.

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