Animal Welfare Act 2006

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Animal Welfare Act 2006[1]
Long titleAn Act to make provision about animal welfare; and for connected purposes.
Citation2006 c 45
Royal assent8 November 2006
History of passage through Parliament
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 (c 45) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[2]


It is the first signing of pet law since the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which it largely replaced.[3] It also superseded and consolidated more than 20 other pieces of legislation, such as the Protection of Animals Act 1934 and the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960. The Act introduced the new welfare offence. This means that animal owners have a positive duty

of care, and outlaws neglecting to provide for their animals' basic needs, such as access to adequate nutrition and veterinary care.[4]

It outlaws tail docking of dogs for cosmetic reasons, with an exemption for "working" dogs, such as those used by the police, the armed forces or as service dogs.

The corresponding Act for Scotland is the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.


The Act is divided into several topics.

Section 1 defines an "animal" as a vertebrate (other than a human) from the sub-phylum vertebrata of the phylum chordata. A "protected" animal is defined in s2 as one that is either commonly domesticated or one that is, at the time being, under the control of a person. The act also defines the five "welfare needs"[5]

  • need for a suitable environment
  • need for a suitable diet
  • need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns (such as exercise)
  • need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
  • need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Prevention of Harm[edit]

Offences include:

  • causing a protected animal to suffer unnecessarily knowing it would suffer – s4(1)
  • unreasonably allowing an animal in that person's care to suffer from somebody else – s4(2)
  • mutilating an animal (except where destroying an animal in an appropriate and humane manner) – s5
  • docking a dog's tail where prohibited – s6(1), s6(2), s6(3)
  • shows a dog with an illegally docked tail at a dog show with fee-paying patrons – s6(9)
  • administers a poison to an animal (or permits to be administered) – s7(1), s7(2)
  • animal fighting – s8
    • causes an animal to fight
    • receives money from admission to or publicises an animal fight
    • provides information about an animal fight to another to enable or encourage attendance
    • makes a bet as to the outcome of an animal fight
    • takes part in an animal fight
    • trains an animal to take part in a fight
    • keeps any animal fighting premises
    • attends an animal fight (without lawful excuse)
    • possesses a recording of an animal fight that took place in the UK (without lawful excuse) with intent to supply
    • shows another person a recording of an animal fight that took place in the UK (without lawful excuse)

Promotion of Welfare[edit]

A person has a duty of care towards animals that person is responsible for – s9(1). Needs include suitable environment, diet, being housed with or apart from other animals, protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Animals cannot be sold to children under 16 years outside a family context – s11(1), s11(6). Animals cannot be given as prizes to children under 16 years – s11(3)(b).

Licensing and Registration[edit]

An appropriate national authority can make regulations regarding the licence and registration of animals.

Codes of Practice[edit]

An appropriate national authority may issue and revise codes of practice for providing practical guidance in respect to any provision in this Act – s14(1).

Failing to comply with a code of practice's provision will not, of itself, render that person liable to proceedings of any kind. However such failure to comply may sway proceedings under other provisions in the Act – s14(3), s14(4).

Where the Secretary of State proposes to issue or revise a code of practice he must submit it to Parliament and if the draft is rejected by one House within 40 days the Secretary of State must take no further action – s15(3). If both Houses reject the draft then the Secretary of State may amend the draft and re-submit – s15(4).

Animals in Distress[edit]

An inspector may take steps felt to be immediately necessary to alleviate an animal that is suffering – s18(1) but this does not include destroying the animal – s18(2).

An inspector or constable may destroy a protected animal if:

  • a veterinary surgeon certifies it is in its own interests – s18(3)
  • there is no reasonable alternative to destroying it and it is not reasonably practical to wait for a veterinary surgeon – s18(4)

An inspector or constable may take into possession a protected animal if:

  • a veterinary surgeon certifies it is suffering or likely to suffer – s18(5)
  • the animal appears to be suffering (or is likely to) and the need for action is such it is not practical to wait for a veterinary surgeon – 18(6)

If an animal is destroyed or taken into possession and the owner doesn't know – then steps should be reasonably taken to notify the owner – s18(11).

Deliberately obstructing somebody in performance of this section of the Act is an offence – s18(12).

An inspector or constable may enter premises (other than areas of private dwelling) for the purpose of searching for a protected animal and reasonably believes that a protected animal is on the premises and the animal is suffering or likely to suffer – s19(1), s19(2). This entry may take place without a warrant using force if the entry appears required before a warrant could be obtained – s19(3).

A court has the following powers to make orders in relation to possessed animals – s20(1):

  • specified treatment be administered to the animal
  • possession should be given to a specified person
  • the animal should be sold
  • the destruction of the animal

The court will not make such orders until it has given the owner of the animal an opportunity to be heard or is satisfied that it is not practical to communicate with the owner – s20(4).

If the court requires a person to reimburse the expenses of carrying out an order that person may appeal to the Crown Court against that expense order – s21(6).

Enforcement Powers[edit]

A constable may seize an animal in relation to an animal fighting offence – s22(1).

A constable may enter and search premises (except for private dwelling areas) for the seizure of an animal related to a fighting offence if he reasonably believes there is an animal on the premises – s22(2).

Suspicion of other offences in this Act may lead to a warrant being issued authorising an inspector or constable to search for evidence of such an offence – s23(1).

An inspector may require the holder of a licence to produce any records which are required to be kept – s25(1). An inspector may carry out an inspection to check compliance with licence conditions – s26(1). An inspector may carry out an inspection to check compliance with a registration – s27(1).

An inspector may, for the purpose of inspecting conditions relating to animal welfare, carry out inspections relating to animals bred or kept for farming purposes – s28(1).


If a person is convicted of an offence the court may make an order disqualifying that person from – s34(1), s34(2):

  • owning animals
  • keeping animals
  • participating in the keeping of animals
  • dealing in animals
  • transporting animals
  • arranging the transport of animals

The disqualification may relate to specific kinds of animal or animals generally – s34(5).

Post-Conviction Powers[edit]

A person guilty of an offence under sections 4 (unnecessary suffering), 5 (mutilation), 6(1–2) (docking dogs' tails), 7 (poisoning), 8 (fighting) shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment up to 51 weeks or a fine up to £20,000 or both – section 32(1).

Section 68 – Commencement[edit]

The following orders have been made under this section:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 69 of this Act.
  2. ^ "The Animal Welfare Act 2006". Retrieved April 15, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Pet abuse law shake-up unveiled". BBC News Online. 14 October 2005.
  4. ^ "BBC – Ethics – Animal Ethics: Animal Welfare Act". BBC. Retrieved 24 April 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Animal Welfare Act - RSPCA". Retrieved December 6, 2016.