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Recognizing cruelty to animals: What does the Animal Welfare Act say?


Cruelty to animals is a criminal offense in Germany, not only in relation to pets, but to all kinds of vertebrates. Read here exactly what this means and what the legislator is doing for the protection of animals. The animal protection law not only protects pets, but also wild animals such as the hedgehog - Shutterstock / Piotr Krzeslak

The German animal protection law, which regulates cruelty to animals, only applies to vertebrates. So it is morally reprehensible to torture or kill animals such as an earthworm or a beetle, but it is not punishable. On the other hand, anyone who deliberately inflicts suffering on a bird or mouse violates the law.

Animal Welfare Act protects animals in Germany

The animal protection law protects vertebrates like dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels and many more in this country. Anyone who violates this and makes animal cruelty punishable must pay heavy fines or even face prison in particularly severe cases. The first paragraph of the German Animal Welfare Act states that animals are co-creatures of humans and that it is the responsibility of humans to protect the life and well-being of animals. "Nobody should cause pain, suffering or harm to an animal for no reasonable reason," concludes the paragraph.

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

Is German animal welfare sufficient?

Animal rights activists criticize that the animal protection law is formulated too vaguely in some places. For example, in the eyes of many critics, criticized agony is not strictly restricted. Many animal welfare organizations also complain about inaccurate or inadequate regulations, for example with regard to animal welfare.

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

Witnessed cruelty to animals? Right behavior

You have witnessed animal cruelty, may have watched a dog on the street ...

If you recognize cruelty to animals

Some pet owners who torture their animals are not aware of this. They then have misconceptions about keeping conditions or dealing with their pet. If you think you recognize cruelty to animals, for example on the street or with a neighbor and his pet, you should first speak to the owner of the animal with respect and kindness. In the event of violence or imminent danger to life - that is, clear cases of conscious animal cruelty - you should however notify the police.


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