The Animal Welfare Act 2006 has been widely anticipated and came into force in England on 6th April 2007 and in Wales on 28th March 2007. It is very wide in scope and replaces the Protection of Animals Act 1911.

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Cruelty (s4)

Unnecessary suffering is defined in Section 4(3) as including when suffering could have reasonably been avoided or reduced, and whether the conduct was that of a reasonably competent and humane person. You can commit an offence if you cause unnecessary suffering by an act (or failure to act) or if you permit someone else to.

Duty of Care (s9)

You commit an offence if you don’t take “such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of ‘an animal for which you are responsible’ are met to the extent required by good practice”. You are responsible for an animal if you are the owner, in charge of it, a parent or guardian of someone under 16 who is responsible for it. You may be responsible on a temporary basis (eg looking after a friend’s animal) An animals needs include:-

  • Suitable environment
  • Suitable diet
  • Need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • To be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • Protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

As an alternative to prosecution, if it is believed you have failed this duty you may be served an Improvement Notice (s10) to require you to take steps within a specified period.

Dog fighting (s8)

There’s a range of offences (which apply to any animal fighting), which include:-

  • Causing a fight
  • Receiving money for admission to a fight
  • Publicising a fight
  • Makes or accepts a bet on a fight

Tail Docking (s6)

Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 ONLY a vet can dock a dog’s tail. It is now an offence to remove a dog’s tail (or cause or permit it to be removed) other than for medical treatment. This ban doesn’t apply if:-

  • The dog is less than 5 days old
  • It is certified by a vet to be of a certain type (hunt point retrieve breeds, spaniels or terriers or any type or combination of types)
  • It is certified by a vet that he has seen evidence that the dog will be used for specified work (law enforcement, armed forces, emergency rescue, lawful pest control or lawful shooting of animals) (see the Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails England Regulations 2007, regulation 3(2)(c). There is a slight variation for Wales.

The owner has 3 months to get a lawfully docked dog microchipped or an offence is committed.

It is an offence to show a dog at an event (in England or Wales) where members of the public are admitted on payment of a fee where the dog’s tail has been removed after the cut off date (no pun intended!), regardless of where the tail has been docked. This doesn’t apply if the dog is ‘demonstrating its working ability’

Sale of Dogs (s11)

It is an offence to sell a dog to someone you have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ is under 16

Promoting welfare (s12)

The government has the power (after consultation) to make regulations for the purpose of promoting the welfare of animals, breach of which is an offence. This is the provision that enabled Regulations to be made making microchipping compulsory and also enabled shock collars to be banned in Wales.

Code of Practice (s14)

The government published the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs in December 2017. Click here to read it. The Welsh Government has published their own Code.

Please note that the above summary only relates to the law in England and Wales, you must not rely on it as constituting legal advice.

Due to the potential for a conflict of interest we are unable to provide advice or representation in allegations of this nature.