This Act was passed in 2006 and introduced in England and Wales in early 2007. Prior to this Act, the Protection of Animals Act 1911 was the outdated legislation in place.
According to the RSPCA, the most significant element of the Animal Welfare Act is the legislation relating to pet owners, who for the first time were required by law to meet the five welfare needs of their pets:
- Somewhere suitable to live;
- A proper diet including fresh water;
- The ability to express normal behaviour;
- For any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals;
- Protection from, and treatment of, illness and injury.
This legislation enables RSPCA Inspectors to advise and educate pet owners, and if a need isn’t being met, an improvement notice can be served with an identified time period specified to reduce pet suffering.
Future legislation includes regulations relating to circus animals and to primates who are kept as pets in England. In Wales, the Animal Welfare Act passes jurisdiction to the National Welsh Assembly who can then pass its own ‘secondary’ legislation therefore, Wales can operate differing regulations to England. The Welsh Assembly has already brought in legislation relating to tail docking and is currently working on legislation relating to electric shock collars, circuses and greyhounds.