Introduction of Penalty Notices for Animal Welfare Offences from 1 January

From 1 January 2024, local authorities and other competent authorities will be able to serve Fixed Penalty Notices on individuals and businesses who contravene animal welfare law.

In 2021, the government published an Action Plan for Animal Welfare setting out an ambition to provide regulators and enforcers with more flexible and proportionate tools to promote compliance by introducing a new system of penalty notices.

Offences include keeping animals in a poor living conditions, repeated failures for obligatory health testing, or poor biosecurity measures.

As a result, the Animals (Penalty Notices) Act was adopted in April 2022 giving powers to introduce penalty notices with a maximum penalty of £5,000 (or the maximum fine for which a person convicted of the offence is liable on summary conviction, whichever is lower), for particular animal health and welfare offences.

Animal welfare and biosecurity minister 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.”

DEFRA said advice and guidance will remain the primary enforcement tool for early redirection to protect animals from harm, but the introduction of these penalties 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.

The RSPCA praised the implementation of fixed penalty notices, considering it a “valuable tool for policing administrative and technical offences related to animals.”

RSPCA public affairs manager Lee Gingell, commented: “The RSPCA welcomes steps that broaden the toolkit of local authorities to promote best practice and protect animals within their communities.”

“It is encouraging to hear that the UK government will now issue thorough guidance and work with local authorities on these changes.”

In terms of yard ownership, this gives yard owners an extra level of support when it comes to dealing with the poor treatment or abandonment of equines on their yards. It is believed that as this legislation also refers to ‘keepers’ that this will also be extended to be able to issue penalties for those caring for equines, such as yard owner, in the event that they are found guilty of ill effective care and welfare standards for equines on their premises. We will update this article with any further equine-related guidance as and when it is available.

Resources and guidance in relation to Equine Welfare and obligations for the keepers of horses can be found on the Yard Owner Hub: Health and Welfare

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