Animal welfare act to come into force

People are to be made legally liable for the basic welfare of their pets under new legislation which comes into force in England on Friday.

The Animal Welfare Act introduces a duty of care for pet owners to do all that is reasonable to ensure the welfare of their animals.

Pet owners will now have to ensure that their pet has a suitable place to live - either with or apart from other animals, whichever suits it best - is properly fed, allowed to express normal behaviour and is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Offenders will be banned from owning animals, fined up to £20,000 and face a maximum prison sentence of 51 weeks.

The age limit at which a child can buy a pet, or win one as a prize, will also be increased to 16 under the new legislation.

The Act represents the first time that a welfare requirement has been introduced for non-farmed animals.

Launching the new legislation at the RSPCA's Harmsworth Memorial Animal Hospital in north London, Defra Minister Barry Gardiner said: "The Animal Welfare Act represents the most important achievement in animal welfare legislation for almost a century. For the first time ever, there will be legislation to stop the suffering of pet animals before it occurs. By allowing early intervention this Act works on the principle that prevention is better than cure."

Joining Mr Gardiner at the launch was RSPCA vet David Grant who also welcomed the legislation. He said: "The Animal Welfare Act is of great significance to the many thousands of animals that suffer through neglect and for those of us that work to help prevent suffering."

The Act came into effect in Wales on March 27.

The government intends to make more specific laws, under secondary legislation, for particular kinds of activities relating to animals where it is felt that more detailed regulations are necessary; such as the welfare of racing greyhounds and wild animals in travelling circuses.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

09 January 2006
Call for ban on dogs' tails 'docking'
Vets and animal welfare groups have called on the government to ban the practice of ocking of dogs' tails for cosmetic purposes.
14 July 2004
'Comprehensive' overhaul of animal welfare laws unveiled
The most comprehensive modernisation of laws on domestic and captive animals for a century has been introduced in draft from the Commons today. The new legislation will introduce a new duty of care on pet owners to look after their pets properly, in accordance with good practice, and will, for the first time, define what constitutes cruelty.
01 July 2003
Commons votes to ban hunting with dogs
Labour backbenchers last night humbled the government over an attempt to install a last-minute compromise amendment in the Hunting Bill, when MPs backed a total ban by 362 votes to 154. Today, Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael said that it was now conceivable that a total ban on hunting with dogs could be enforced by 2005.
14 October 2005
Animal welfare bill published
New measures to protect animals from cruel treatment have been published by the government. The Animal Welfare Bill, the first overhaul of such legislation for nearly a century, will see the introduction of tougher penalties for animal cruelty.
23 January 2006
Animal welfare groups highlight whale plight
Animal welfare groups are attempting to raise awareness of the plight of whales, following the death of a bottle-nose whale in the Thames at the weekend. The International Fund for Animal Welfare called for the "outpouring of emotion" over the death of the northern bottle-nose whale to be directed towards other whales.