There is legislation in place to improve certain areas and a number of these can be seen below. This list is not comprehensive and if you require further information please visit the Defra website or ask the secretariat.

Companion Animals Legislation

The Pet Animals Act 1951

The Pet Animals Act 1951 (as amended in 1983) protects the welfare of animals sold as pets. The Act requires any person keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local authority. Before granting a licence the local authority 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; and are adequately protected from disease and fire. The local authority may attach any conditions to the licence, may inspect the licensed premises at all reasonable times and may refuse a licence if the conditions at the premises are unsatisfactory or if the terms of the licence are not being complied with.

Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the law in this area and anyone who has reason to believe that a pet shop is keeping animals in inadequate conditions should raise the matter with the local authority who will decide what action to take within the range of its powers.

Under s.2 pets cannot be sold in the street, including on barrows and markets.

Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963

Establishments where the boarding of animals is being carried on as a business are subject to the 1963 Act, which requires such establishments to be licensed by the local authority. For the purpose of this Act the keeping of such establishments is defined as the carrying on at any premises, including a private dwelling, of a business of providing accommodation for other people's cats and dogs.

The licence is granted at the discretion of the local authority which may take into account the suitability of the accommodation and whether the animals are well fed, exercised and protected from disease and fire.

Riding Establishments Act 1964 and 1970

Riding establishments are licensed by local authorities under the 1964 Act. The local authority can impose conditions on the licence. The local authority, in the exercise of its discretion, may take into account the suitability of the applicant/manager, the accommodation and pasture, adequacy of the provision for the horses' health, welfare and exercise, precautions against fire and disease and the suitability of the horses as regards the reasons for which they are kept.

Environmental Protection Act 1990

The Environmental Protection Act gives local authorities and the police statutory responsibilities regarding stray dogs.

Local authorities must: 

appoint a person to deal with stray animals locally;
seize any stray animal on public land;
keep a seized dog for seven days during which the authority must feed and maintain it. After this the dog may be sold, given to an organisation that cares for strays or destroyed;
keep a register of dogs seized and the details of what happens to them  

Local authorities have the power to charge a minimum £25 fine to owners whose animals have strayed, and on returning the animal can claim costs for kennelling and feeding. They have the right to dispose of unclaimed strays.

The police must:

accept and restrain any stray dog taken by the finder to the police station nearest where the dog was found;
work with local authorities to ensure members of the public have somewhere to take a stray dog at all times.

The Act also covers persistent barking which may be regarded as a statutory nuisance resulting in possible prosecution and fines.

Breeding of Dogs Act 1991 

Under the Act, a warrant can be issued by a court to gain entry to a place where it is suspected an offence is being committed.

Under previous legislation, anyone breeding five or more litters a year needs a licence. Obtaining a licence is dependent on having suitable and clean accommodation, and the dogs being exercised, fed and given bedding. 

Unlicenced commercial breeders are prevented from selling puppies.

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 

The Dangerous Dogs Act extends the powers of the Dogs Act 1871 and the Dogs Act 1906 by laying down rules in two important areas:

It is an offence for any dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place (defined as that it will injure a person, whether or not it actually does so).

The Act covers all dogs, but specific rules are laid down for fighting dogs: the Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Braziliero. The only way to keep one of the specified dogs would be to obtain a Certificate of Exemption.

It is illegal to breed, sell, exchange, advertise or make a gift of such a dog. These dogs cannot be abandoned or allowed to stray. When a fighting dog is in a public place, the Act requires the dog to be muzzled to prevent it from biting, to be on a lead and to be in the charge of somebody over the age of 16. The dog must also be insured and neutered. Any dog found not to comply with the law will be euthanased. 

The Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997

This Act lifts the mandatory destruction (euthanasia) provisions contained in the 1991 Act. The Act also contains provisions to order the destruction of a dog if the owner fails to comply with a court order to register the dog and to specify measures for keeping a dog under proper control 

Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999

This Act amends the 1991 Breeding of Dogs Act. 

The Act requires all those breeding and selling dogs to obtain a licence from their local authority. The local authority will ensure that the animals are adequately accommodated, fed, exercised and protected from disease and fire. 

It prevents commercial premises being given a licence if bitches are being mated under one year old, have more than six litters of puppies and give birth to puppies more than once a year. All premises must keep accurate records. It is illegal to sell a puppy to a licenced pet shop without a breeding licence. Puppies cannot be sold before eight weeks old and must be vaccinated and identified.

Animal Welfare Act 2006

The Act consolidated and updated a number of aspects of animal welfare law, for example in relation to cruelty and fighting offences.

Most significantly for the first time it introduced legislation for pet owners - giving them a legal duty of care to meet the five welfare needs of their pets.

The law also applies to those who are responsible for animals, such as those that breed animals or keep working animals.

Animal keepers are now legally obliged to provide the five basic needs also known as 'freedoms':

  • 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 Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export and Placing on the Market) Regulations 2008

The Regulations implement EU Regulation No 1523/2007 prohibiting the import, export and placing on the market of cat and dog fur.

The Horse Passports Regulations 2009

These Regulations implement EU Regulation No. 504/2008. They provide for identification of horses, and replace the Horse Passports (England) Regulations 2004.

Wild Animals Legislation

Deer Act 1991 

The Deer Act 1991 makes it an offence to:

enter land in search or pursuit of any deer with the intention to take, kill or injure any deer without the landowner's or occupier's permission; kill deer (except farmed deer) during the closed season prescribed for the appropriate sex and species; kill deer between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise; use snares, traps, net or poison to take or kill deer; use arrows or any missile containing poison, stupefying drug or muscle relaxant to kill a deer; use a motor vehicle from which to shoot or project any missile at deer or to drive or kill deer, unless with the authority of the landowner of any enclosed land; sell deer meat unless a licence has been granted for the person to deal in game that has been acquired legally; remove a carcass without the landowner's permission. The killing of farmed deer is allowed for farming purposes as is the use of certain weapons, any trap or net for the purpose of preventing suffering of an injured or diseased animal.

The killing of wild deer is allowed, subject to certain conditions, if the landowner has reasonable grounds to believe the deer of that species has caused serious damage to crops, growing timber or property on their cultivated land, pasture or enclosed woodland

Badgers Act 1991 

The Badgers Act 1991 amended the original Badgers Act 1973 by providing protection (subject to certain exceptions) for badger setts.  

The original Act related to protection for the animals themselves but not their setts. This resulted in various anomalies and in many cases failed to provide adequate protection for the animals.  

The Badgers Act 1991 helped rectify this by making it an offence to intentionally damage or destroy a sett

Protection of Badgers Act 1992

The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 consolidates the Badgers Act 1973, the Badgers Act 1991 and The Badgers (Further Protection) Act 1991.

Under the legislation it is an offence to:

kill or injure a badger, except under licence;
sell, offer for sale or possess any dead badger or parts of a badger, unless it has not been killed in a way that is contrary to the law;
cruelly ill treat any badger;
use certain prohibited firearms;
dig for a badger;
damage/destroy a badger sett or access to it or disturb a badger in it;
use a dog to enter a badger sett;
tag or mark any badger except under licence 

The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996

The Act makes it an offence to mutilate, kick, beat, impale, stab, burn, stone, crush, drown, drag or asphyxiate any wild mammal with the intention to cause it unnecessary suffering.

The maximum penalties under the Act are a level 5 fine (currently £5000) or a six month imprisonment.

The Act allows the courts to confiscate any equipment used in the offence and can order its disposal or destruction.

The Act does allow exceptions in the areas of mercy killing if there is no reasonable chance of recovery.

Countryside and Right of Way Act 2000

Dolphins, otters and barn owls are among the wildlife in England and Wales which were given greater protection under this new law. It makes it an offence for the first time recklessly to disturb a Schedule 1 bird whilst building a nest or when it is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young. It also now makes it an offence recklessly to disturb a Schedule 5 animal or destroy any structure or place used for protection or shelter.

For example, it an offence intentionally or recklessly to damage a hedge, building or tree where a Schedule 1 bird is nesting or where any Schedule 5 animal is taking shelter.

Disturbing a whale, dolphin, porpoise or basking shark is illegal under the Act - for example making it against the law for jet skiers to chase and harass dolphins when they surface off the coast of England and Wales. People who dump non-native species such as green iguanas, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs or red-eared terrapins in the wild can also be arrested and prosecuted under the Act.

The Hunting Act 2004 

The Hunting Act makes it illegal to hunt wild mammals with one or more dogs unless the hunting is exempt. Exempt hunting includes the hunting of rabbits and rats, according to certain conditions.

The Act also bans the participation in, facilitation of and allowing the use of land for hare coursing.

 The penalty for these activities is a £5,000 fine.

The Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925

The welfare of performing animals is provided for in the general provisions to avoid suffering and ensure welfare in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. In addition the training and exhibition of performing animals is further regulated by the 1925 Act which requires trainers and exhibitors of such animals to be registered with the local authority. Under this Act, the police and officers of local authorities, who may include a vet, have power to nter premises where animals are being trained and exhibited, and if cruelty and neglect is detected, magistrates' courts can prohibit or restrict the training or exhibition of the animals and suspend or cancel the registration granted under the Act.

Council Directive 1999/22/EC relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos

Implemented by Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2002.

The basis of this Directive is the need to ensure that zoos can fulfill their modern role in conservation, research and public education, and meet their obligations under other Community legislation on wildlife trade and the protection of native species.

Under article 3, zoos must take part in any combination of the following:

research of benefit to conservation of the species held; training in relevant conservation skills; exchange of information on species conservation; captive breeding, repopulation and reintroduction of species into the wild. Zoos must also:

promote public education and awareness of the conservation of biodiversity, especially by providing information about the animals on show and their natural habitats; keep their animals under conditions which aim to satisfy the biological and conservation needs of each species and keep a high standard of animal care, including preventative and curative veterinary attention; keep animals securely; keep appropriate and up to date records of the animals held.

Council Regulation 338/97/EEC (CITES) Implemented by Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997.

This updates EU implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It designates how the trade is controlled and managed and establishes the levels of protection for wild animals in international trade.

Regulation 938/97/EEC sets out the administrative controls for the trade in endangered species and outlines those species in which trade must be monitored and controlled.

This Regulation is regularly updated, particularly after CITES Conference of the Parties Meetings.

Council Regulation 3254/91/EEC on trapping and imports of fur

The Regulation bans the use of the leghold trap in the territory of EU member states.

It also prohibits the introduction into the Community of pelts and manufactured goods of certain wild animal species originating in countries which catch them by means of leghold traps or trapping methods which do not meet international humane trapping standards.

Scientific Animals Legislation

Council Directive 2003/15/EEC amending Council Directive 76/768/EEC on the approximation of the laws of Member States relating to cosmetic products

Implemented by Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2004.

The Directive includes:

  • an immediate marketing ban on new cosmetics tested on animals where alternative test methods have been validated and adopted in the EU;
  • a marketing ban on new animal-tested cosmetics six years after the Directive comes into force. This applies to the use of the majority of animal tests and the time period for implementation cannot be extended;
  • a marketing ban on new animal-tested cosmetics in relation to tests for repeated-dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics ten years after the Directive comes into force;
  • an immediate ban on animal testing of finished cosmetic products;
  • an immediate ban on animal testing of ingredients where alternative test methods have been validated and adopted in the EU;
  • a complete ban on all animal testing for cosmetics in the EU six years after the Directive comes into force.

Farm Animal Legislation

Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994

Implements:

The European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes of 10th March 1976 as read with the Protocol of Amendment to the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes of 6th February 1992;
Council Directive 88/166/EEC laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens kept in battery cages;
Council Directive 91/629/EEC laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves;
Council Directive 91/630/EEC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs.

The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995

These Regulations implement Council Directive 93/119/EEC that regulates the handling of animals to prevent unnecessary suffering during the slaughter process.

The Animal Health Act 2002

The Act has two main purposes. The first is to provide additional powers to tackle Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and for these powers to be extendable to other animal diseases by order.

The second is to provide additional powers to deal with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in sheep. The Act also makes a number of amendments to the enforcement provisions of the Animal Health Act 1981.

Council Regulation 1/2005/EC on the protection of animals during transport and related operations and amending Directives 64/432/EEC and 93/119/EC and Regulation 1255/97/EC

This Regulation replaces the 1995 Directive.

It aims to improve the enforcement of animal transport rules in Europe and identifies who is responsible for what during the animal's journey. In some areas, stricter rules for journeys lasting over eight hours are introduced.

The main areas of change to the current law are:

young and animals in the last 10% of pregnancy will not be permitted to travel introduction of a minimum age for transporting puppies and kittens; equipment and conditions will be improved in some areas for long journeys: for example mechanical ventilation, temperature monitoring systems and watering facilities will be improved; conditions for horses to be improved; raining of drivers and attendants - they will be obliged to hold a species-specific certificate of competence awarded only after undergoing welfare-focused training and independent competency assessment; journey logs will be introduced to replace Route Plans. Navigation systems to track vehicles will be compulsory from 2007 for new vehicles; maximum travelling times will remain the same except for unbroken horses (eight hour maximum).

Council Regulation 411/98/EC on additional animal protection standards applicable to road vehicles used for the carriage of livestock on journeys exceeding eight hours

The Regulation details additional animal protection standards applicable to road vehicles used for the carriage of livestock on journeys exceeding eight hours and requires animals on road journeys lasting more than eight hours to be provided with bedding material and foodstuffs. Vehicles must be equipped to allow for direct access to the animals at all times, for adequate ventilation, and for connection to water supplied during breaks. They must also be fitted with partitions which can be placed in different positions to suit the needs of the animals involved.

Council Directive 97/2/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves

Implemented by Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2002.

This amends Council Directive 91/629/EEC by prohibiting the housing of calves in individual pens or boxes after the age of eight weeks, except when necessary for veterinary treatment.

Up to the age of eight weeks, pens must allow visual contact with other calves and be slightly larger than under the original legislation.

Stocking densities for calves kept in groups are modified to increase the space available as calves grow.

The provisions came into effect from 1998 for new or rebuilt units and from 2007 by all holdings.

Council Directive 95/29/EC on the protection of animals during live transport

This Directive amends Council Directive 91/628/EEC and sets out more detailed requirements for the licensing of animal carriers, the training of staff, and the way inspections should be carried out. It also lays down loading densities, journey times, and feeding and watering intervals for horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs for 24-hour breaks during longer journeys. Staging points must be approved by member state authorities and supervised by the official veterinarian.

Implemented by Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997.

Council Directive 93/119/EEC on the protection of animals at the time of slaughter and killing

The legislation regulates the handling of animals to prevent unnecessary suffering during the slaughter process.

It lays down rules for the movement, lairaging, restraint, stunning, slaughter and killing of animals bred and kept for the production of meat, skin, fur or other products.

It also stipulates methods of killing animals for the purpose of disease control. National authorities responsible for implementing slaughter regulations must ensure that people involved in the handling of animals from the moment of arrival to the act of slaughter have the necessary skills to perform their tasks humanely and efficiently.

Individual member states retain the right to decide whether to authorise religious slaughter without pre-stunning in their own territory, however, the Directive places responsibility for the application and monitoring of religious slaughter provisions with the religious authorities concerned under the overall responsibility of the official veterinarian. Animals slaughtered in accordance with religious rites shall be spared any avoidable suffering or pain during all stages of the slaughter process. Outdoor slaughter for religious purposes is prohibited.

Council Directive 91/628/EEC on the protection of animals during transport

The Directive amends Directives 90/425/EEC and 91/496/EEC and works in conjunction with several Directives passed between 1989 and 1991. 91/628/EEC provides the main legislative framework for general provisions relating to the transport of animals.

These require that animals shall be certified fit to travel, unless being transported for veterinary treatment. Animals that fall ill during the journey shall be given first aid treatment as soon as possible. Transportation should be carried out in such a way that does not cause injury or unnecessary suffering. Animals must be identified and registered and accompanied by documentation detailing ownership, place of departure and destination, and date and time of departure. Member states must ensure that carriers are registered and that they comply with the welfare rules laid down.

For journeys exceeding 24 hours, an itinerary must be drawn up, indicating staging points where animals can be fed, watered and rested. Member states are required to carry out inspections of vehicles and animals at the point of departure, at staging points, markets, or the final destination.

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007

The Regulations, made under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, consolidate and amend a number of farm animal related Regulations, including specific provisions for laying hens, pigs and calves.

The Regulations ban conventional battery cages from being built or used for the first time in preparation for the ban on their use in 2012.