New legislation introduces penalty notices for animal health and welfare offences.
Penalty notices of up to £5000 could be issued from 1 January 2024 for animal health and welfare offences
Offences includes keeping animals in a poor living environment, overdue TB testing or animal breeders operating without a licence
New legislation adds to existing enforcement measures to protect animals– including criminal prosecution for most serious offences
New legislation laid today (11 December) will introduce the option to issue fixed penalty notices for a range of animal health and welfare related offences.
The secondary legislation – which has been laid under the Animals (Penalty Notices) Act – follows a public consultation in which more than 85% of respondents supported the introduction of penalty notices as an enforcement tool.
From 1 January 2024, they will be added to the existing portfolio of enforcement measures, such as warning letters, statutory notices or movement restrictions to protect animals and help ensure animal keepers follow the law.
Owners will face penalties of up to £5,000, and serious animal welfare offences will still be prosecuted.
They could be issued for offences such as animals living in a poor environment, repeated overdue bovine TB testing, breaching of avian influenza housing orders, or animal breeders operating without a license.
Animal health and welfare legislation is paramount in protecting the country from the threat of diseases, which impact our nation’s productivity and ability to trade freely, as well as making sure all animals are treated properly at all stages of life.
In cases of non-compliance, enforcement bodies use appropriate enforcement tools to make sure the law is upheld.
Advice and guidance will remain the primary enforcement tool for early redirection to protect animals from harm. However, the deterrence of penalty notices will provide further protection to animals if this advice and guidance is ignored or proves an insufficient incentive for change.
Animal Welfare and Biosecurity Minister Lord Douglas-Miller said:
“All keepers have a duty of care to protect their animals from harm, as well as adhering to biosecurity rules to protect our nation from devastating diseases.
“I know the majority of animal owners recognise the importance of these rules, but it is vital that tough enforcement steps are taken when those rules are broken.
“I welcome penalty notices as an additional tool for our partners to use to encourage compliance with the law.”
Lee Gingell, RSPCA public affairs manager for local government, said:
“The RSPCA believes fixed penalty notices can be a valuable tool for policing administrative and technical offences related to animals – where welfare isn’t seriously compromised, or in situations where firmer enforcement is not required.
“While stronger enforcement action is needed when more serious animal welfare offences occur, the RSPCA welcomes steps that broaden the toolkit of local authorities to promote best practice and protect animals within their communities.
“It’s encouraging to hear that the UK Government will now issue thorough guidance and work with local authorities on these changes – as ensuring Councils are well equipped and competent in the use of these new FPN powers will be key in ensuring they are effective and improve animal welfare.”
A penalty notice gives an individual the opportunity to discharge liability from prosecution for an alleged criminal offence in exchange for a fee and correcting the issue.