Animal Welfare Laws: How is Latin America Doing in Animal Rights?

The indices of the region show that there is still a long way to go in Latin America to reach decent animal welfare rights and laws.

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LatinAmerican Post | July Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Leyes de bienestar animal: ¿Cómo está Latinoamérica en derecho animal?

On March 8, the animal sector in Colombia was outraged after article 20 of the National Development Plan was withdrawn, which contemplated adding functions to the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in order to implement policies for the protection and animal welfare. Apparently, it was the Ministry of Agriculture that requested that the article be withdrawn. However, the actual reason has not been confirmed. This was the only PND article that considered animal protection, so the decision has received much rejection. This, of course, does not imply that animals are no longer protected in Colombia, but it does show disinterest on the part of the current government of Gustavo Petro, which has formed its image through the slogan "Colombia, world power of life". Thus, there is a delay in the possible approach of animal welfare laws.

Also read: Animal experimentation: prohibitions and strategies to reduce its use

Unfortunately, in the rest of Latin America, animal protection legislation is still very crude, and it is necessary to delve into accurate definitions, measures, and regulations that ensure animal rights, beyond the prohibition of animal shows and bullfights. Let's see how some Latin American countries are doing in animal protection.


The only law that Mexico has for animal protection is the General Wildlife Law of 2018, which prohibits the use of animals in circuses and regulates, to a certain extent, the use of specimens for scientific and museographic collections. However, this law, beyond being very recent, does not guarantee uniform protection throughout Mexico, and it is not clear about the sanctions for animal cruelty and mistreatment. In response to this, the international organization Animal Equality presented on March 14 a proposal with 100,000 signatures before the Chamber of Deputies to reform the Federal Constitution in its article 73 in order to facilitate legislation for animal protection and welfare.

Costa Rica

The Central American country is not only the Latin American country with the most comprehensive animal protection legislation, but it is also a world benchmark in animal law. In 2017, after six years of construction, Law 7451 on Animal Welfare was ratified after an amendment to ensure that it contemplates all possible animal abuse and strong penalties tailored to the crimes. Thus, whoever breaks the law can serve up to 2 years in prison and takes into account mistreatment, murder, and even sexual abuse and vivisection.

Likewise, the law prohibits and punishes all parties involved in events that promote cockfighting and dogfighting and imposes fines for abandoning domestic animals. In addition, the law is very clear with the exclusions with cases of animals that are used for human consumption and those that are affected in the improvement of sanitary control.


The Inca country is one of the most backward in terms of animal law. Although it has the Animal Protection and Welfare Law, it has inconclusive nuances and far above prohibits animal fights, but it does not have clear sanctions nor does it specify who could be the subjects of criminal acts. Furthermore, the law does not define animals as sentient beings, a gap that renders the law meaningless and effectively enforceable.


The island did not have an animal protection law until February 2021, when Law 31 on Animal Welfare was approved. This norm contemplates different types of animals and their function in human life, the control of pets and cases of necessary, painless and immediate euthanasia. Although this animal welfare law has a focus on rights and duties on the part of citizens, several animal protection organizations have denounced that the law has not been complied with and that the same government has used pet control to collect stray dogs and sacrifice them.


Although Argentina has Law 14,436 on Animal Protection, the definitions are unclear and the sanctions are not clarified, and it really takes into account only mistreatment and cruelty to animals without distinguishing the differences between them. Precisely because of this lack of coherence and depth, many bills have been put in place to prohibit certain activities, such as hunting wild boar with dogs. However, these projects are for very precise and specific cases, which is why a well-defined animal welfare and protection law is still necessary in Argentina.

As we can see, Latin America has ideas of the importance of applying animal law in its constitutions, but the laws lack coherence and clear definitions that guarantee compliance with the laws by the citizens or sanctions by the judicial system. This is usually replicated in all countries. States such as Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are the ones with the most comprehensive animal welfare or animal protection laws that have different guarantees for domestic animals.

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