Animal Welfare

To report cruelty or an animal in distress, please contact the RSPCA's 24 hour cruelty line on 0300 1234999.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006

Before the Animal Welfare Act 2006, animal welfare law was largely reactive and action could only be taken once an animal had suffered unnecessarily. The 2006 Act introduced an important new concept for pet owners and those responsible for domestic animals, e.g. breeders and those who have working animals or farm animals in England and Wales.

Preventing animals suffering

This means enforcement agencies and RSPCA Inspectors can now act by advising and educating owners before their pets suffer. If this advice is not followed or the animals' needs are not being met, action can be taken, whether through a formal warning or in some cases a prosecution.

What does the law actually say?

Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act2006 places a duty of care on people to ensure they take reasonable steps in all circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice.

What does this mean for those responsible for animals?

Those responsible for animals must take positive steps to ensure they care for their animals properly and, in particular, must provide for the five welfare needs, which are the need:

  • for a suitable environment
  • for a suitable diet
  • to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
  • to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Further information

Further information about what this means in practice can be found in specific Codes of Practice produced by Defra.

You can also contact Environmental Protection:

Contact: The Environmental Health team

Last updated on 17/05/2023