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Animal Welfare Bill - DEFRA’s official statement

The most significant animal welfare legislation for nearly a century has been published by DEFRA.

The Animal Welfare Bill, which applies to England and Wales, was introduced in the House of Commons yesterday and published today (14 October). The Bill primarily replaces the Protection of Animals Act that was first passed in 1911. It also brings more than 20 other pieces of legislation into one.

The Bill will:

reduce animal suffering by enabling preventive action to be taken before suffering occurs l

introduce a duty on those responsible for animals to do all that is reasonable to ensure the welfare of their animals

deter persistent offenders by strengthening penalties and eliminating loopholes, eg those causing unnecessary suffering to an animal will face up to 51 weeks in prison, a fine of up to £20,000, or both

extend the power to make secondary legislation and bring current licensing powers into one place

extend to companion animals the use of welfare codes agreed by Parliament, a mechanism currently used to ensure the welfare of farmed animals

The duty to take reasonable steps to ensure welfare includes:


providing for the animals' need for a suitable environment

a suitable diet

the ability to express normal behaviour

any need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals

and freedom from pain, suffering, injury and disease

The Bill is aimed principally at the keeping of non-farmed animals. Farmed animals already have a high standard of protection.

The Bill applies to vertebrates only – principally to those vertebrates in the care of man. The Bill does not affect animals used in scientific procedures, which are covered by other legislation.

The Bill also:

strengthens and amends current offences related to animal fighting

increases from 12 to 16 the minimum age at which a child may buy an animal, and prohibits the giving of pets as prizes to unaccompanied children under the age of 16

increases the effectiveness of law enforcement for animal-welfare offences

bans mutilations of animals, with certain specified exemptions

Further information: Website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/welfare/bill/index.htm