Brief Summary of United Kingdom Animal Law
Rebecca F. Wisch (2010)
The United Kingdom (UK) was the first country to pass animal welfare legislation. In 1822, the Parliament passed Richard Martin's Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle. Nearly a century later in 1911, the Protection of Animals Act was enacted and remained in force, relatively untouched, for decades.
The Protection of Animals Act was the primary anti-cruelty legislation in the UK for almost a century. In 2007, the newly adopted Animal Welfare Act replaced the existing Protection of Animals Act. For the first time, the Act mandated a "duty of care" on pet owners. Not only are pet owners now required by law to provide for their companion animals' basic needs such as food and water, but the Act also specifies veterinary care and a suitable environment. Under the former 1911 law, a duty of care was only given for farm animals.
Other important animal laws in the UK include The Pet Animals Act 1951, the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and 1991, and the Performing Animals Act 1925.
One important aspect of UK law is the issuing of "Codes of Practice" that accompany many of these laws. Codes of practice provide practical guidance for people to help understand provisions of the law. While violation of a code of practice does not make a person liable under the associated law, violation of a code of practice can be relied upon to establish liability. Alternatively, they can also be relied upon to refute liability or to show compliance with a law.
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