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What Is The Animal Welfare Act?

What Is The Animal Welfare Act?

Acts to Protect Animals:  What Are They?

Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle

The beginnings of the Animal Welfare Act.

In 1822, the UK worked to implement laws to protect Animals.  The UK was the first country to do so.  The Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle recognised animals as sentient beings and not commodities.

The Protection of Animals Act

In 1911, The Protection of Animals Act was implemented.  It was the first general Welfare Law.  However, it has been updated many times since it was first introduced.

The Animal Welfare Act

This Act was passed in 2006 and introduced in England and Wales in early 2007.  

Prior to the 2007 Animal Welfare Act, the UK had written in law that it was illegal to:

  •  cruelly beat, kick, ill-treat, over-drive, over-load, torture, infuriate, or terrify any animal
  • cause unnecessary suffering through transportation
  • take part in the fighting or baiting of an animal
  • administer poisonous or injurious substances without good rreaon
  • permit operations to be carried out without due care and humanity
  • cause unnecessary suffering to an animal that is being destroyed to provide food for mankind
  • course and hunt a captive animal that is liberated in an injured, mutilate or exhausted condition, or course and hunt a captive animal in an enclosed space from which it has not reasonable chance of escape.
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Sadly, there are exceptions for animals involved in legal scientific procedures.

Furthermore, the law was written in such a way that action could only be taken against perpetrators of cruelty once an animal had actually suffered. There were no preventative measures in place.

According to the RSPCA, the most significant element of the Animal Welfare Act is the legislation relating to pet owners.  For the first time, pet owners were being held accountable for the welfare of their pets.  The Act required them 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.

The RSPCA could then advise and educate pet owners, and if a need wasn’t being met, an improvement notice could be served with an identified time period specified to reduce pet suffering.

Codes of Practice

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Furthermore, DEFRA introduced Codes of Practice introduced in England for the welfare of dogs, cats, horses and privately kept non-human primates.  These Codes of Practice provide guidance on how owners can appropriately care for their animals.  However, these Codes of Practice can be used in Court for evidence relating to proof of poor welfare.

Other laws protecting animals in the UK:

  • The Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925
  • The Pet Animals Act 1951 (amended 1983)
  • Cock fighting Act 1952
  • Abandonment of Animals Act 1960
  • Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963
  • Riding Establishments Act 1964 and 1970
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1973
  • Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976
  • Zoo Licensing Act 1981
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1991
  • Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999
  • Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 and the Farriers (Registration) (Amendment) Act 1977
  • Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act 1988
  • The Animal Boarding Establishments Act o 1963

The Pet Animals Act 1951 (As amended in 1983)

This Act protects the welfare of animals that are sold as pets, requiring all pet shops to be licensed by the local council.  In order to be satisfied of welfare suitability, a Council must be satisfied that:

  • the animals are kept in accommodation that is both suitable and clean
  • that they are supplied with appropriate food and drink
  • are adequately protected from disease and fire.

The Local Council may attach conditions to the license and inspect the premises at all reasonable times.  They may refuse a license if the premises is deemed unsatisfactory in some way, or terms are not adhered to.

Pets cannot be sold in the street eg barrows and markets.

The Animal Boarding Establishments Act, 1963

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This applies to anywhere where the boarding of animals is carried on as a business.  The Act requires such establishments to be licensed by the Local Council.  It is defined as, “carrying on at any premises, including a private dwelling, of a business of providing accommodation for other people’s cats and dogs’.  

The license is granted at the discretion of the Local Council which takes into account the suitability of the accommodation and whether the animals are well fed, exercised and protected from disease and fire.

The Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999,

Breeding of Dogs Act 1991 and Breeding of Dogs Act 1973

Anyone who breeds dogs in order to sell them must obtain a license from the Local Council.

In order to issue a license, the Local Council must be satisfied that:

  • Animals are provided with suitable accommodation, food, water and bedding material
  • are adequately exercised and visited at suitable intervals
  • that all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent and control the spread of diseases amongst dogs.

The Law also places limits on the frequency and timing of breeding from a bitch, who:

  • Cannot be mated before they are a year old
  • Must not have more than 6 litters in a lifetime
  • Can only have one litter every 12 months.
  • Breeding records have to be kept to ensure that these requirements are adhered to. 
  • Puppies that are produced at a licensed breeding establishment can only be sold at those premises or a licensed pet shop.

Section 32 of the Animal Welfare Act

In 2021, Section 32 of the Animal Welfare Act was amended to increase the maximum sentence for someone convicted of an offence of cruelty to imprisonment for a term of 5 years.