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The protection of non-human animals in Kenya is characterized by a fragmented and disparately enforced legal framework. In this article Kenyan animal lawyer Jim Karani will provide us with an overview of those laws.


A high number of cruel practices go unregulated, and when regulated, are poorly enforced against and in other cases complete classes of species are not protected. For example, since Kenya relies heavily on wildlife-based tourism, wild animals have received considerably stronger legal protections with strong penalties prescribed in wildlife legislation as opposed to domestic animals that have poor protections.

Laws in Kenya relating to animals are made at the national and county level of government and they are as follows;

The Constitution of Kenya, CoK, 2010, is the supreme law and other laws are subject to it whether created by the National Assembly or County Assemblies. It provides for the protection of the welfare of both domestic and wild animals.

  1. Article 185(2) of the CoK 2010, as read with its Fourth schedule separates protection functions between the national and county governments. The National government handles the protection of wild animals while the county governments handle animal control and welfare.

  2. Article 2(5) of the CoK 2010 states that treaties that Kenya has signed directly form part of Kenyan law implying that the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat , Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) provisions are considered part of Kenyan law.

Animal laws

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Chapter 360, passed in 1963 is the main law protecting the welfare of animals. The act creates offences against various acts of cruelty such as animal fighting, public exhibitions, hawking and sport hunting. This law prescribes different penalties for various animal abuse offences and is further implemented by the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals (Transport of Animals) Regulations, 1984 that govern the transportation of animals. They acknowledge that animals can suffer pain and injury.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act No.47 of 2013 is the main legislation protecting wildlife and implements CITES. This law lists and protects specific species of wildlife depending on their endangered and threatened status and creates offences against their poaching and trafficking.

The Fisheries Management and Development Act No. 35 of 2016 is the main legislation protecting the welfare of marine and fish species. It creates prohibitions against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing of fish and marine mammal species.

The Penal code, Chapter 63, is the main criminal code in Kenya which prescribes one criminal offence against animals. Section 289 of the Penal Code creates the offence of killing of an animal with the intent to steal which states that any person who kills any animal capable of being stolen with intent to steal the skin or carcass, or any part of the skin or carcass, is guilty of an offence and is liable to the same punishment as if he had stolen the animal.

The Meat Control Act provides for minimum standards which slaughterhouses should comply with when housing live animals before slaughter. There are regulations enforcing the main act as Meat Control (Local Slaughterhouse) Regulations, 1973, Meat Control (Transport of Meat) Regulations, 1976, Meat Control (Local Slaughterhouse) Regulations, 2012, Meat Control (Export Slaughterhouse) Regulations, 1973.

The Animal Diseases Act introduces measures that may or shall be taken by public bodies and holders of animals for the control of diseases affecting animals. i.e., all stock, ruminating animals, dogs and captive wild animals and any other animals declared by the Minister to be an animal to which this Act shall apply. It is enforced by the Animal Diseases Rules, 1968 which regulate the movement of animals either by importation or exportation; They give the steps that authorities should take in case they believe that an animal has an infectious disease.

What’s next for animals

Animal Welfare and Protection Bill, 2019, currently under consideration by the National Assembly, is expected to change the existing welfare framework by implementing OIE principles into domestic legislation, introducing new animal abuse offences and enhancing penalties. It has very progressive provisions that seek to regulate concentrated farmed animals’ operations and other commercial exploitation of domestic animals.


There is a need for reform in the legal framework to conform domestic law to the principles Kenya has agreed to internationally, especially OIE principles and also to enhance the scope of offences and penalties under domestic welfare legislation. The other main challenge remains in empowering law enforcement to enforce the compliance of these new laws and regulations to ensure animals are protected and kept safe.

Getting Advice

This post is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. If you require legal advice on animal protection laws, please contact

In addition you can find more information about animal protection laws in Kenya from Lawyers for Animal Protection Africa

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