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The Animal Welfare Act 2006 came into force on 6 April 2007.
The aim of the Act is to improve the welfare of animals, impose greater responsibility on their carers, and provide greater investigation and entry powers for police and local authority staff to deal with offences.
Under section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is the duty of any person responsible for an animal to ensure that its welfare needs are met. These include:
Under The Protection of Animals Act 1911 it is an offence to cause unnecessary physical or mental suffering to an animal and currently, enforcement action can only be taken to protect an animal after it has suffered. The new Act will enable enforcement action to be taken where an animal is likely to undergo suffering in the future. The Act also strengthens and amends current offences relating to animal fighting.
Other offences under the new Act include:
Depending on the type of offence and animals involved, enforcement is shared between the RSPCA, Police, Local Authorities and DEFRA.
The Local Authority, Police or a member of the public can undertake a prosecution which can be started up to 3 years after the offence (as long as its is within 6 months of the evidence becoming available).
Penalties will vary, but the most serious offences could incur a fine of up to £20,000 and /or 51 weeks imprisonment. Powers will be available to impose disqualification orders banning a person from owning or looking after animals and either dealing or transporting animals.
A change is likely to the licensing or registration of activities involving animals, such as, riding schools, pet shops and animal boarding establishments, which may involve risk-based inspections. Licensing of livery yards, racing greyhounds and animal sanctuaries is also being considered.
If you know about an animal that is injured or being treated cruelly, please call the RSPCA's national 24-hour cruelty and advice line on
0300 1234 999 or alternatively, visit the RSPCA website.
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