Companion Animals

The Pet Animals Act 1951

The Pet Animals Act 1951 (as amended in 1983) protects the welfare of animals sold as pets. The Act requires any person keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local authority. Before granting a licence the local authority must be satisfied that the animals are kept in accommodation that is both suitable and clean; that they are supplied with appropriate food and drink; and are adequately protected from disease and fire. The local authority may attach any conditions to the licence, may inspect the licensed premises at all reasonable times and may refuse a licence if the conditions at the premises are unsatisfactory or if the terms of the licence are not being complied with.

Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the law in this area and anyone who has reason to believe that a pet shop is keeping animals in inadequate conditions should raise the matter with the local authority who will decide what action to take within the range of its powers. Under s.2 pets cannot be sold in the street, including on barrows and markets.

Animals in Severe Weather

Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963

Establishments where the boarding of animals is being carried on as a business are subject to the 1963 Act, which requires such establishments to be licensed by the local authority. For the purpose of this Act the keeping of such establishments is defined as the carrying on at any premises, including a private dwelling, of a business of providing accommodation for other people’s cats and dogs.

The licence is granted at the discretion of the local authority which may take into account the suitability of the accommodation and whether the animals are well fed, exercised and protected from disease and fire.

Breeding of Dogs Act 1991

Under the Act, a warrant can be issued by a court to gain entry to a place where it is suspected an offence is being committed. Under previous legislation, anyone breeding five or more litters a year needs a licence. Obtaining a licence is dependent on having suitable and clean accommodation, and the dogs being exercised, fed and given bedding. Unlicenced commercial breeders are prevented from selling puppies.

Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999

This Act amends the 1991 Breeding of Dogs Act. The Act requires all those breeding and selling dogs to obtain a licence from their local authority. The local authority will ensure that the animals are adequately accommodated, fed, exercised and protected from disease and fire.

It prevents commercial premises being given a licence if bitches are being mated under one year old, have more than six litters of puppies and give birth to puppies more than once a year. All premises must keep accurate records. It is illegal to sell a puppy to a licenced pet shop without a breeding licence. Puppies cannot be sold before eight weeks old and must be vaccinated and identified.

Animal Welfare Act 2006

The Act consolidated and updated a number of aspects of animal welfare law, for example in relation to cruelty and fighting offences. Most significantly for the first time it introduced legislation for pet owners – giving them a legal duty of care to meet the five welfare needs of their pets.

The law also applies to those who are responsible for animals, such as those that breed animals or keep working animals. Animal keepers are now legally obliged to provide the five basic needs also known as ‘freedoms’:

  • somewhere suitable to live
  • a proper diet, including fresh water
  • the ability to express normal behaviour
  • for any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • protection from, and treatment of, illness and injury.

Welfare of dogs

Welfare of cats

Welfare of horses, donkeys, ponies, etc.