Animal Welfare Act 2006 Guide

On the 6th April 2007, animal welfare law was improved. It is now not only against the law to be cruel to an animal, you must also ensure that all your animal's welfare needs are met.

What does the Animal Welfare Act do?

The offences in the Act are divided into two broad categories: the promotion of animal welfare and the prevention of harm to animals:

A person commits a welfare offence if he does not take reasonable steps to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met. These include the need:

  • for a suitable environment (place to live)
  • for a suitable diet
  • to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • to be housed with or apart from other animals (if applicable)
  • to be protected from pain, suffering, injury & disease

The owner of an animal is always considered to be legally 'responsible' for the animal's welfare. But legal responsibility ('the duty of care') may also include the person who is in charge on an animal, even temporarily. If an animal is looked after by a child under 16, the person who has the care and control of the child (e.g. parent/guardian) is treated as responsible for the animal.

Unnecessary suffering

There are two separate offences:

  • to cause unnecessary suffering to a protected animal by an act (e.g. kicking a dog) or failure to act (e.g. to provide veterinary treatment).
  • to permit unnecessary suffering to an animal for which that person is responsible, which has been caused by another person (e.g. allowing someone to neglect a pet by not feeding it).


Anyone who is cruel to an animal or does not provide for its welfare needs, may have the animal taken away, be banned from owning animals, fined up to £20,000 and/or sent to prison. The law also, increases the minimum age a person can buy an animal to 16 and prohibits animals as prizes to unaccompanied children under this age.