Animal Welfare Act 2006

The Animal Welfare Act 2006

You can ask our online solicitors for advice on the animal welfare act 2006 using the question box on the front of our website or the following free legal advice guide may answer your questions.

In 2006 the Animal Welfare Act was introduced as an Act of Parliament which aimed to promote and protect the welfare of animals in England and Wales. Within the Act there are certain provisions which apply to all animals and others which are only applicable to particular species or those which have protected status. A protected animal is one that has been commonly domesticated in the British Islands and it is under the control of another human whether this is on a permanent or temporary basis.

In other words all animals such as domestic pets are protected. Wild animals are not.

Animal Welfare act

When applying this law it can be used for anyone who is responsible for an animal. This includes a situation where you are responsible for a person under the age of 16 years and they own an animal. Ultimately you are responsible for the animal.

Within The Animal Welfare Act 2006 there are certain provisions which set out what the Act aims to achieve.

#1 Prevention of Harm
The legislation makes it very clear that it is a criminal offence to allow any unnecessary suffering in relation to a protected animal. This applies both to a situation where the animal may suffer unnecessarily due to your failure to act or action that you took which would result in unnecessary suffering for the animal.

There are also criminal offences in relation to mutilation against any protected animal. The only exception to this rule is when medical treatment is being administered or in a situation that involves docking dogs tails. However the docking must be for medical purposes only or the dog must be from a specific category of working dogs.

A criminal offence is also committed where you knowingly without the relevant authority to do so or have reasonable excuse to administer or allow another individual to administer any type of poison or substance that could cause injury to protected animals.

The Act also makes provision for dog fighting which is strictly prohibited. The legislation aims to keep dogs safe from this activity.

#2 Welfare Promotion
As a person in charge of or the owner of a protected animal you have an obligation to ensure that the welfare of the animal is of paramount importance.

If you do not take reasonable steps to meet the needs of the animal you will be committing a criminal offence.

At the very least the animal should:

  • Live in a safe and suitable environment
  • Have access to the right food and water
  • Live in an environment that encourages the animal’s natural behaviour patterns
  • Be housed separately from any other animal which may cause it harm through suffering, injury, pain or disease

If an inspector visits your property and finds that you are failing to take these steps the Animal Welfare Act does contain provisions when it can issue what is known as an ‘improvement notice’ to the person responsible for the animal. This improvement notice will outline the steps that you as the animal owner must take to address the problem and how long you have to improve the situation.

Under the Act you cannot sell or in certain instances give away an animal as a prize to an individual who is under the age of 16 years.
The Act also explains that National authorities such as the Secretary of State can make regulations which relate to parents of children who own animals. In these instances it is the parents who are primarily responsible for the welfare of the animal.

#3 Licensing and Registration
There are certain activities which involve animals that require either registration or a licence. The Animal Welfare Act does not define which activities require registration or a licence, it is only there to outline issues in relation to animal welfare. There are separate pieces of legislation which relate to these activities.

#4 Code of Practice
In England, the Secretary of State is provided with the appropriate national authority to both issue and amend codes of practice in relation to animal welfare. Codes of Practice can also be revoked.

Although a failure to comply with a code of practice is not a criminal offence, if a person fails to comply with a code of practice then this failure can be used to determine liability for an offence which is defined under The Animal Welfare Act.

The legislation sets out specific procedures for the approval of codes of practice in England and Wales and how these codes of practice can be revoked if necessary.

#5 Animals in Distress
A constable or inspector has a number of powers in relation to animal welfare. These powers include the right of entry onto premises where they believe that a protected animal is being kept and the animal is suffering.

Entry into the premises should be made to alleviate suffering of the animal.
Magistrates Courts are also given the power in circumstances where a protected animal is suffering.

#6 Enforcement
In some instances enforcement action may be required. Circumstances where enforcement usually applies relates to the seizure of animals which are involved in fighting. The authorities can also gain entry to premises where they have sufficient grounds to believe or they know that an offence is being committed. Entry can also be gained to make an arrest.

Inspectors also have certain rights in relation to enforcement. An inspector has the power to undertake any inspection of records where they are required for the purposes of registration or licensing.

#7 Prosecution
Local authorities are given a number of powers to start prosecution proceedings for any offence which has been committed under the Act. Prosecutions for such offences are bound by strict time limits.

In addition to the above, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 also defines a number of provisions which relate to punishment of anyone found guilty of an animal welfare offence.

Post conviction powers cover a number of areas including:

  • Fines or prison sentences can be issued. Under the provisions of the Act, the Courts can also create orders which will deprive a person of owning an animal
  • The courts have the power to disqualify any person from keeping, owning or having any involvement with animals.
  • Where an individual is disqualified their animals can also be seized.
  • If an animal is involved in fighting the Act can order destruction of the animal. This is applicable if it is in the best interests of the animal to do so.
  • In addition, the Court can also request that the offender reimburse the authorities for keeping the animal following the offence.
  • Any equipment that relates to an offence under the Animal Welfare Act must be forfeited and it can be destroyed
  • In some situations, enforcement action cannot be taken where an appeal is pending or within the period where an appeal is permitted
  • If an offence is committed by someone who was supposed to obtain a licence the licence can be revoked
  • If an order is made to recover certain expenses, under the Act, these can be recovered through a civil route

Ultimately, the Animal Welfare Act was introduced to safeguard protected animals. You must ensure that you comply with the regulations outlined in the Act if you own or keep any protected animal.

Severe consequences can result if you fail to comply with the regulations.

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