Animal welfare

The Animal Welfare Act requires humans to treat animals well. Inflicting undue pain and distress on animals is prohibited. Animals must be given sufficient water and appropriate food. Animals must be kept in premises appropriate for the species in question. The welfare of animals must be checked at least once a day. Animals must not be abandoned. If an animal falls ill, veterinary care must be sought.

Information on enforcement

In Finland, the animal welfare authorities are responsible for enforcement of animal welfare. These include

  • municipal veterinarians (often with the title ‘veterinary inspector’ if they conduct animal welfare inspections)
  • regional veterinarians
  • the police
  • the custom
  • municipal health protection officials, or health inspectors 

Also, at licensed slaughterhouses the operations are overseen by the on-site veterinary inspector and meat inspector. 

A veterinary inspector is a municipal veterinarian who specialises in enforcement and routinely conducts animal welfare inspections. Other municipal veterinarians may also conduct animal welfare inspections.

If there is a suspicion of an animal being mistreated or neglected, animal welfare officials have the right to conduct an inspection even if it involves an infringement of domestic peace. 

Animal welfare inspections may also be conducted by animal welfare supervisors authorised by the Regional State Administrative Agency. They, however, have no official powers and cannot infringe upon domestic peace. If they observe an animal being mistreated, they will inform the animal welfare authorities.

Based on notification received, the animal welfare authorities investigate the situation and may conduct an animal welfare inspection.

An animal welfare inspection may also be conducted even if there is no probable cause. Such inspections concern locations where animals are kept professionally or otherwise on a large scale, e.g. veterinary clinics, large horse stables or kennels.  

If you suspect that an animal has been ill-treated or neglected, you can report it. Anyone can file an animal welfare notification.

The competent authority is your local veterinary inspector. If no veterinary inspector has been appointed in your area, you may report animal welfare violations to any municipal veterinarian. The contact information of veterinary inspectors can usually be found on the website of your local authority’s environmental health department. In many cases, several local authorities have pooled their environmental health resources and formed what are known as “co-management areas”, which means that your local veterinary inspector may not be based in the municipality in which you live.

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