Animal Welfare Act 2006

Sections 1 -3 

Animals covered under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 are classed as vertebrates other than a man. Vertebrate animals are classed as subphylum Chordates and comprise of animals with a backbone.

The purpose of this legislation is to protect all vertebrate animals (with a backbone) other than humans. An invertebrate, (an animal without a backbone), is not capable of pain and suffering.

For example, a worm can regenerate its body after being cut apart. It does not feel pain and it does not suffer or have the concept of suffering so, therefore, it is not included in the legislation. If however It can be proven scientifically that an invertebrate can feel pain and suffering it can be included. The law does not stretch to embryo/unborn fetal animals.

Protected animals under this act, is any domesticated animal in the British islands under the control of a person on either a permanent or temporary basis. For example, the animal is not wild and living in a wild state, it has been tamed (domesticated).

The person having control of the animal is the person responsible for it if different from the owner. If the animal is in the custody of a child, under 16 years, then the responsibility is with the parent or guardian of the child.

Prior to 2006 action could only be taken after unnecessary suffering had already occurred. The 2006 law provides a duty of care to the owner/keeper of any domesticated animal. It allows for prosecution or orders to be placed by the courts for any offences under this act. It promotes codes of practice, education, and intervention prior to any suffering occurring and clearly places the responsibility with the owner or person in charge of a dog.

You can view the Codes of Practice in the “Useful Links” section of this website, and also on the DEFRA website.

Section 4

Unnecessary Suffering is covered under section 4 of the animal welfare 2006 Act – Prevention of harm. If the animal who is suffering is a protected animal (domesticated/owned) and the suffering is unnecessary then A person commits an offence, If they cause the animal to suffer, or allow someone else to cause the animal to suffer,  or fails to stop the act knowing that the animal is suffering or about to suffer.

For example, if I am the owner of a dog and I allow a family member to continually kick and punch the dog every time it barks, then I am guilty of an offence, so is the person kicking and punching the dog.

If my dog cuts his leg really badly to the point where the wound needs stitches, I am guilty of an offence if I do not take the dog for treatment. If I decide to bandage the wound and hope for the best, whilst the dog cries and howls in pain. i am causing the dog to suffer, the suffering can be avoided if I take the dog to a vet for treatment. so it is unnecessary suffering that I am causing.

Consideration when defining unnecessary suffering includes, whether the suffering could be avoided or reduced. If the suffering was for a legitimate reason. For example, a dog with a broken leg that is told not to walk on it for a few weeks by the Vet, the dog must be confined to a smaller area in order to protect the dog’s broken leg whilst it is healing. The dog is suffering as it cannot exhibit normal behavior due to its confinement, but it’s for the greater good in this respect. It is benefiting the dog.

A vet may subsequently cause a dog to suffer after surgery but he is competent and the suffering is reasonably expected.

Harming a Service Dog is a criminal offence unless the dog is under the control of a police officer in the course of duty but only whilst working, if the police officer is off duty, and is the defendant he can be found guilty of an offence. so in effect, if a Police dog handler or service dog handler causes harm to his dog, he could become the defendant in certain given situations. Referred to as Finns LAW Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019.

Section 5

Section 5 is about mutilation; a person commits an offence if he carries out a prohibited procedure on a protected animal or causes such a procedure to be carried out on such an animal.

Prohibited procedures are interference with the sensitive tissues or bone structure of the animal, unless it for medical reasons advised by a qualified vet. This does not include neutering and Tail docking is not included in this section.

This section largely relates to farm animals such as pigs, goats, sheep, domesticated Deer. The only relation to dogs is the removal of dew claws, whilst this is permitted; it is still illegal to perform the procedure if the dog is a puppy and has not yet opened its eyes.

Routine surgery like castration must be done under anesthetic. The mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007.

Section 6

Tail Docking is covered under section 6 of the Act It is an offence to remove the whole or any part of a dog’s tail, or allow any person to remove the tail of a dog you are responsible for unless advised by a vet for medical reasons.

It is an offence to allow it to happen you must take reasonable steps to prevent this from happening or you are guilty of an offence. This does not apply to certified working dogs that are not more than 5 days old.

Spaniels Terriers, Hunt, Point and Retrieve breeds which are used for working dogs are exempt if the dog is docked before 5 days old. A Vet must certify the dog as a working dog. The vet needs evidence from the appropriate national authority that it will be used for: law enforcement, Armed Forces, Emergency Rescue, and Lawful pest control.

It is an offence to give false information to a vet in order to dock the tail So the breeder of the dog would need to show the vet a letter from the relevant person, like the police or the landowner who will be working the dog on his land, in order to prove that the dog is being used for service. The Vet must sign the certificate to say the dog is docked in accordance with the law.

A person commits an offence if the tail is docked on any dog in England and Wales, which is not a certified working dog. if you own a dog with a docked tail you need to prove that it is certified. Or that it was docked before the commencement date of this section.

It is an offence to show a dog with a docked tail at a show to which the members of the public have paid money to watch. Unless the tail was docked before this became law in April 2007 in England. 

Section 7

Section 7 deals with the administration of poison, it is an offence to administer any poisonous substances whether in the form or drugs or poisonous plants which you are aware are harmful. It is an offence to allow anyone else to administer poisonous substances to a dog and you are aware of the harm unless this is advised by a Vet for medical reasons.

As a Dog-related business, I need to be aware of any poisonous plants in my garden as the dogs are my responsibility and as a professional, if a dog was to ingest any poisons whether plant-based or something as simple as bleach on the floor which I have just mopped. If the dog licks the floor at some point after mopping and has an adverse reaction which causes the dog to suffer I am guilty of an offence.

Part of the licensing conditions for related businesses advises using dog-friendly products on the floors and surfaces where the dog has access.

Section 8

Dog Fighting is covered under section 8, Dog fighting brings BSL to mind, you think of Pit Bulls, Larger ferocious type dogs. Whilst this is not always the case, a person commits an offence if he causes an animal fight to take place, or attempts to do so.

To receive any money in relation to dog fighting is an offence, advertising an animal fight or providing information about one is an offence. It is illegal to gamble on dog fights, to take part in a dog fight have anything in your possession relating to dog fighting with the intention to use it. It is an offence to train your dog aggressively with an intention for dog fighting.

It is an offence to attend a dog fight, to supply a video, show or digitally stream a video even to possess a video recording of a dog fight. Video footage filmed outside the UK is not included here.



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Ronnie has been going to daycare for about a month now and he always seems to have a great time. I can see the benefits of him spending time...

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