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Animal Welfare Act 2006: Simplified.

by ThatWriterWoman 2 years ago in activism
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UK animal welfare law, made simple.

Having studied animal welfare for 5 years, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is a piece of UK legislation that I am more than familiar with. However, it has taken a few of those years to gain an understanding of what everything means. Therefore, I am writing up a simplified version using simple language to help others who may be questioning the legality of others actions.

What is it?

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is a piece of active UK legislation that places all non-human animals under protection.

What qualifies as an animal, in this case, is any vertebrate except humans and this act does not apply to any animals while in a foetal or embryonic form.

A vertebrate can be seen as an animal with a backbone, and a central nervous system, and can therefore recognise pain.

National authorities may make exceptions to the vertebrate and unborn rules if there is scientific evidence that proves that those animals can feel pain and suffering.

'Protected animals' are also covered by the act. They are any domesticated animal, any animal under human control and any animal not living in a wild state.

If a person is over 16 and in control of an animal, they can be held accountable through this legislation.


There are 69 sections to this act. I will be covering a few of the most essential and important ones in this article.

Section 9

Arguably the most important section, section nine outlines the duty of care a person has to animals that they are responsible for. These can be summarised in the '5 animal needs'

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

If these needs are not met without good reason, it is animal abuse. However, if a need isn't met because of a good reason, for example, a social animal may be separated from the other animals in its enclosure if carrying an infectious disease, this is not abuse as it is protecting others from disease.

It is worth noting that nothing in this section applies to the destruction of an animal in an appropriate and humane manner.

Humane veterinary enclosures for domestic animals whilst healing.

Section 14

This sections specifies that disobedience of codes of practice the government has issued for an animal will class as an offence.

The UK Government has issued numerous codes of practice that the public can refer to when learning how to care for an animal. These are especially useful when learning how to care for the more exotic.

As a simple example, here are the specific codes of practice for the keeping of a domestic dog as a pet:

What can you do?

The next sections of the legislation covers the powers various people have including police, veterinarians and members of the public.

As a member of the public, if you see something wrong, or are concerned about an animals welfare within the UK.

DO NOT take that animal or attempt to contact the owner.

Instead, call your local RSPCA centre, who may send an officer to seize the animal legally.

If the particular case requires you to act immediately, call the emergency police 999 and inform them of what you are going to do and why. Only do this if you are 100% confident in your ability to do it.

Extended info

Section 13 details the need of a license to own certain animals that needs to be applied for by people and organisations who wish to own them.

Section 32 details that any person guilty of an offence under section 9, 13 or 34 shall be liable to

  • imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks
  • a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale

This means nearly a year in jail and/or a £5,000 fine.

Section 33 details the ability of the UK government to ban an owner from keeping a type of animal for a determined amount of time.

Written by: Kate O'Callaghan

Original Source: Animal Welfare Act 2006


About the author


An aspiring female writer from the UK, 23. Twitter:

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