Defending RSPCA prosecutions can be lengthy and complex. The consequences of being convicted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 can be very distressing as the courts routinely deprive people of their pets and disqualify them from keeping any animals in the future. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 created many offences and the most commonly charged are set out below.

Animal Welfare Act 2006

Under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. Such suffering could be caused by either an act or a failure to act. If convicted, you can face a maximum sentence of six months in prison, an unlimited fine or both. You may also be deprived of your pet and even be disqualified from keeping animals in the future.

Failure to Observe Best Practice

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, a person who is responsible for an animal must ensure it is properly looked after to the extent required by good practice. Section 9 of the Act states that an animal’s needs shall be taken to include the following:

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

Improvement Notices (Section 10 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006)

Section 10 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 allows the RSPCA to serve an improvement notice on a person it believes to be failing to observe best practice in caring for an animal. The notice must specify the steps to be taken and the period allowed for taking such steps. A person cannot be prosecuted under section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 until the end of that specified period and they also cannot be prosecuted if the steps specified in the notice are taken. Further time for compliance may be allowed. Failure to comply with an improvement notice will usually result in a prosecution under section 9.

Mutilation

An offence is committed under section 5 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 when an individual carries out, or causes to be carried out, a prohibited procedure on any domesticated animal. The person who is responsible for the animal commits an offence if they permit such a procedure to be carried out or fail to take reasonable steps to prevent it from being carried out. A prohibited procedure is one which interferes with the sensitive tissues or bone structure of the animal, other than for medical purposes. An example of such is the cropping of ears. Tail docking is not covered since it is dealt with under section 6 of the Act.

The maximum sentence for an offence under this section is six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. The court also has the power to deprive the owner of the animal and it can disqualify them from keeping animals in the future

Tail Docking

An offence is committed if a person removes, or causes to be removed, part or all of a dog’s tail, other than for the purpose of medical treatment. It is also an offence if the person responsible for the dog allows the tail to be docked or fails to take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening. There is an exemption for a certified working dog that is not more than five days old.

The maximum sentence for an offence under this section is six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. The court also has the power to deprive the owner of the animal and it can disqualify them from keeping animals in the future.

Dog Fighting

Section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 deals with animal fights. An animal fight is defined as “an occasion on which a protected animal (i.e. a domesticated animal) is placed with an animal, or with a human, for the purpose of fighting, wrestling or baiting”. Under this section, it is an offence to:

  • Cause an animal fight, or attempt to do so;
  • Knowingly receive money for admission to an animal fight;
  • Knowingly publicise a proposed animal fight;
  • Provide information regarding an animal fight to another with the intention of enabling or encouraging attendance at that fight;
  • Make or accept a bet on the outcome of an animal fight;
  • Take part in an animal fight;
  • Possess anything designed or adapted for use in connection with an animal fight with the intention of it being so used;
  • Keep or train an animal for use in connection with an animal fight.

In addition to the above, if you have no lawful authority or reasonable excuse, it is also an offence to:

  • Be present at an animal fight;
  • Knowingly supply, publish or show a video recording of an animal fight;
  • Possess a video recording of an animal fight, knowing what it is and with the intention of supplying it.

Exceptions to the above are if the animal fight took place outside of Great Britain or on a date prior to the commencement of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Possession of such a video recording is also lawful if such possession is for the purpose of its inclusion in a programme service.

Police have the power to seize an animal if they believe it has been involved in an animal fight.

If found guilty, the maximum penalty is six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. The court can also order that the owner be deprived of the animal and prohibit them from keeping animals in the future.

Cases of animal cruelty often involve expert evidence from veterinary surgeons. To defend your position in the best possible way, you will need the assistance of specialist animal and dog law solicitors. Having defended many similar prosecutions in the past, our team at Wheldon Law can offer you the legal advice you require. We also have access to some of the best veterinary experts in the UK who are experienced in defending Animal Welfare Act prosecutions so we can provide you with valuable insights that will enable you to obtain the outcome you desire.

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