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Introduction and General Information: Legislation affecting the care of Wildlife Casualties in the UK

Where possible, Legislation affecting a particular species or group of species has been linked from the relevant SPECIES page. The INDIVIDUAL SPECIES should always be consulted in addition to this using this main legislation section.

This section offers a guide to identifying the legislation that must be considered and does not claim to be all encompassing. The content is largely based on published information, not a legal opinion. The source references indicate where the comment originated. The implications of legislation can be changed rapidly through the issue of "Orders" and altering "General Licences". Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of the page at the time of going to press for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" module (October 2001), in all instances, the current legislation and appropriate statutory bodies should be consulted or professional legal advice taken.

NOTE: This section is not intended to cover all aspect of legislation associated with UK Wildlife. It is intended to assist those caring for casualty wild animals by indicating areas of legislation which may be relevant in the "taking", keeping, treatment, release, marking and killing of wildlife casualties. It does not address the issues associated with species not normally found resident in the wild in the UK, other than in that is is prohibited for these to be released into the wild in the UK.

The following legislation may affect the "taking", keeping, treatment, release, marking and killing of wildlife casualty animals. Some Acts or Orders are intended to cover a single species or a small group of species, while others are more generally applicable. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 probably has the widest relevance for the care of wildlife casualties. There is provision within the legislation to allow the "taking"of sick, injured or disabled animals for care and rehabilitation, even when they are of protected species. However, careful and detailed record keeping is advisable to enable the carer to prove, if called so to do, that there was just cause for an animal of a protected species to be taken/kept/killed. (P19.2.w1, J35.147.w1, B142). (See: Record Keeping)

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"Taking" of Animals (Wildlife and Countryside Act)

  • The main legislation relating to the general "taking" (removal / capture) of animals from the wild is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This is supported by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. A wild bird may be taken by a person for the sole purpose of tending it and then releasing it when it is no longer disabled. (D31).
  • Seals and deer are protected by their own specific legislation against being taken during their close season and badgers have their own protective legislation. There are provisions within the Acts for the "taking" of ill or injured individuals of protected species for the purposes of treating the animal and returning it to the wild following recovery. (J35.147.w1, B142.4.w4).

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1991)

"PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN METHODS OF KILLING OR TAKING WILD ANIMALS.  Section 11 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act details various offences relating to methods of killing or taking wild animals. The Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1991 added offences relating to causing or permitting the prohibited methods of killing or taking wild animals." W5.Jan01

  • Animals: There is provision within the legislation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to allow the "taking" of sick, injured or disabled animals for care and rehabilitation. Section 10 (3)a Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 allows the "taking" of an animal listed in Schedule 5 that needs immediate treatment, but only if the animal can be taken by hand. (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, B142.4.w4)
  • Animals: Species listed in Schedule 5 of this Act are fully protected (Section 9(1)) against killing, injuring and "taking" throughout the year by any means including by hand; they are also protected against disturbance while in the den, damage, destruction or obstruction of the entrance to the den (J35.147.w1, B142.4.w4, B223).
  • Animals: Species listed in Schedule 6 of this Act are protected against certain forms of "taking". It is an offence to use any trap or snare, any electrical device, or any poison, poisoning or stupefying substance, or any automatic or semi-automatic weapon, or any device for illuminating for night shooting or any form of artificial light or mirror or dazzling device, or any gas or smoke or a decoy, sound recording or mechanically propelled vehicle in pursuit to take or injure a Schedule 6 species without a licence from the Nature Conservancy Council (now English Nature, Scottish National Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales) (for research, education or conservation) or from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (because of damage). (J35.147.w1, B223)
  • Animals: If there is need to use a restricted method for trapping an incapacitated animal, a licence application can be made to the Nature Conservancy Council (now English Nature, Scottish National Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales). Issuing of such a licence can be done by telephone or fax in an emergency. (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1)
  • Birds: Most species of bird (not including those included in Part II of Schedule 2 of the Act) are protected against "taking". This includes birds "included in Part I of Schedule 2 outside the close season for that bird". However there is provision within the Act for the "taking" of an ill or injured wild bird solely for the purposes of tending it and releasing it when no longer disabled. (B223, D31, P19.2.w1).
  • Birds: Certain methods of "taking" wild birds are prohibited under the Act. This includes articles which are likely to cause harm, also nets, bird lime, baited boards and similar items.(B223).
  • Birds: The use of vehicles in immediate pursuit of wild birds is prohibited (B223).

N.B.

  • A person "taking" a protected species into care may have to show that there was just cause for doing so.
  • Each decision to take a wild animal into captivity has to be based on a sound understanding of the biology of the animal.
  • Full records should be kept showing where the animal came from, who reported it, why it was taken into captivity, initial veterinary report and subsequent course of action.
  • "Taking" a wildlife casualty into captivity results in a consequent legal obligation to release the animal when it is no longer disabled.
  • (J35.147.w1, B142.4.w4).

Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997

The use of dart guns (including rifles, pistols, blowpipes or any other projector weapon discharging tranquilliser darts) is regulated under the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997. Under this legislation ( Section 5(1)(B) of The Firearms Act 1968) these are classified as "prohibited weapons"; acquisition of such a weapon requires an authority from the Home Office as well as a permit from the local Chief Constable. Applications are made to the Home Office, F.8 Division, Room 610, 50 Queen’s Anne’s Gate, London SW1H 9AT; at the same time the person applying should inform the Chief Constable of their local district that the application has been made. (B156.21.w21, D64)

"Taking" of Animals Legislation - Seal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Taking of Animals" section above)

Seal Considerations Halichoerus grypus - Grey seal, Phoca vitulina - Common seal.

These species are within the family Phocidae.

Conservation of Seals Act 1970 (as amended):

  • Section 9.1(a) of the Act allows disabled seals to be "taken" at any time for the purposes of tending and release, without a licence.
  • This Act requires that a licence is obtained to "take" seals during the close season for the purposes of scientific research, which would include marking. Licences are applied for from: The Secretary of State (Home Office in England & Wales, The Secretary of State for Scotland)
  • This Act provides separate close seasons for both species during their pupping periods: 1st September to 31st December for Grey seals in England, Wales and Scotland; 1st June to 31st December for common seals in England and Wales, 1st September to 31 December in Scotland.
  • Various Orders have been made under the Act providing more extensive protection.

    (J35.147.w1, B142.4.w4).

  • As of August 2001, the relevant orders are: The Conservation of Seals (England) Order 1999 (LUK18.w1) and The Conservation of Seals (Common Seals) (Shetland Islands Area) Order 1991 (LUK18.w1).

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"Taking" of Animals Legislation - Deer Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Taking of Animals" section above)

Deer Considerations Capreolus capreolus - Western roe deer, Cervus elaphus - Red deer, Cervus nippon - Sika deer, Dama dama - Fallow deer, Hydropotes inermis - Chinese water deer, Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac.

These species are from the family Cervidae.

Deer Act 1991, Deer (Scotland) Act 1996

  • Section 6(3) of the Deer Act 1991, as with preceding legislation such as the Deer Act 1963 (section 10(1)), allows the use of nets or traps without a licence in order to catch a deer to prevent suffering. No exception is laid down under this legislation for the use of stupefying drugs fired from a dart gun for this purpose.
  • These Acts (Deer Act 1991, Deer (Scotland) Act 1996) make provision for the "taking" of injured or diseased deer for the purpose of preventing suffering, including during the close season and at night.
  • In Scotland, the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 states (section 25) that: "A person shall not be guilty of an offence against this Act or any order made under this Act in respect of any act done for the purpose of preventing suffering by (a) an injured or diseased deer; or (b) by any deer calf, fawn or kid deprived, or about to be deprived, of its mother." The use of nets, traps and dart guns are therefore permitted in Scotland for the purposes of "taking" injured deer to prevent suffering.

(J35.147.w1, D28, V.w5)

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"Taking" of Animals Legislation - Stranded Whale and Dolphin Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Taking of Animals" section above)

Stranded Whale and Dolphin Considerations Balaenoptera acutorostrata - Minke Whale, Delphinus delphis - Common dolphin, Globicephala melas - Long-finned pilot whale, Grampus griseus - Risso's dolphin, Lagenorhynchus acutus - Atlantic white-sided dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris - White-beaked dolphin,  Orcinus orca - Killer whale, Phocoena phocoena - Common porpoise, Physeter macrocephalus - Sperm whale, Stenella coeruleoalba - Striped dolphin, Tursiops truncatus - Bottle-nosed dolphin.

These species are within the families Balaenopteridae, Delphinidae, Phocoenidae, Physeteridae.

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000,

  • The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 adds "reckless damage or disturbance" to the offence of intentionally damaging any structure or place in which a wild animal listed in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is sheltering, together with a further extension to protect Schedule 5 cetaceans by the addition of an offence of "intentionally or recklessly disturbing a cetacean or basking shark in any place".
  • (D23)

Statute Prerogative Regis, 17 Edward II (AD 1324)

  • Statute Prerogative Regis, 17 Edward II (AD 1324) states that although the Crown has sovereign dominion over the sea around the British Isles, it has no general property in the fish and marine mammals in it except for cetaceans and sturgeon. These are ‘Royal Fish’ and belong to the Crown. An exception to this is if they become stranded or their bodies are washed ashore within the limits of a Manor, such as the Duchy of Cornwall, in which case title passes to the Lord of the Manor. The chief requirement of the Royal Prerogative nowadays is that stranded ‘Royal Fish’ are reported to the Receiver of Wreck who will then pass the information to the Natural History Museum, London and other relevant bodies. The Receiver of Wreck can be contacted via the local coastguard.
  • In Scotland, "northern bottlenose whales", "long-finned pilot whales" and "cetaceans less than 7.5 metres (25 feet) long" are not classed as ‘Royal Fish’.
  • In consultation with the Receiver of Wreck, local authorities may deal with the collection and disposal of carcasses of ‘Royal Fish’.
  • For beached cetaceans within the limits of a Manor (e.g. the Duchy of Cornwall), title passes to the Lord of the Manor.
  • In 1990 the UK government instigated a project to co-ordinate the reporting, recording, post-mortem examination and tissue sampling of marine mammals stranded and incidentally caught in England and Wales. This was extended to cover Scotland in 1992. The co-ordinator for these projects should be contacted in the event of an animal stranding. The Natural History Museum, London has been recording strandings since 1911 and continues to receive reports through the Receiver of Wreck and Strandings Co-ordinators.

    (D23)

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000

  • Police, coastguards and rescue staff can ensure that a live animal is not harassed, with recourse to the Protection of Animals Act 1911 (1912 in Scotland) which protects captive animals from acts of commission and omission which cause suffering, as it is possible that stranded cetaceans might be considered captive. (D23)

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"Taking" of Animals Legislation - Badger Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Taking of Animals" section above)

Badger Considerations Meles meles - Eurasian badger:
  • Badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. (previously they had special protection under Badgers Act 1973, plus amendments in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985).
  • N.B. It is illegal to dig for badgers under any circumstances. This includes digging to rescue orphaned cubs (J35.147.w1)

The following information is quoted from the section on Wildlife Crime in the website of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (W5.Jan01):

"Protection of Badgers Act 1992

  • Section 1(1) Unlawfully killing, injuring or taking: It is an offence for any person to wilfully kill, injure or take a badger or attempt to do so. It is not an offence for a person to take or attempt to take a badger which had been disabled otherwise than by his lawful action and is taken or, to be taken solely for the purpose of tending it. Nor is it an offence to kill or attempt to kill a badger which appears to be so seriously injured, other than by his own unlawful act, or in such a condition that to kill it would be an act of mercy."
  • Section 2(1)(a) Cruelty It is an offence for any person to cruelly ill-treat any badger
  • Section 2(1)(b) Badger tongs It is an offence for any person to use tongs in the course of killing, taking or attempting to kill or take a badger
  • Section 2(1)(d)
    Killing badgers by prohibited means
    • It is an offence for any person to kill or take any badger by use of any firearm other than a shotgun of bore greater than 20 bore
      or
      a rifle using ammunition of muzzle energy not less than 160 footpounds and bullet greater than 38 grains
  • Section 3 Interfering with a badger sett It is an offence for any person to interfere with a badger sett by; damaging a sett or a part thereof; obstructing access to any entrance of a sett; destroying a sett; causing a dog to enter a sett or disturbing a badger when it is occupying a sett and intend to do any of these things"

(W5.Jan01)

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

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"Taking" of Animals Legislation - Insectivorous Bat Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Taking of Animals" section above)

Insectivorous Bat Considerations Bechstein's bat - Myotis bechsteinii, Brandt's bat - Myotis brandtii, Brown long-eared bat - Plecotus auritus, Daubenton's bat - Myotis daubentonii, Greater horseshoe bat - Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Grey long-eared bat - Plecotus austriacus, Large mouse-eared bat - Myotis myotis, Lesser horseshoe bat - Rhinolophus hipposideros, Noctule - Nyctalus noctula, Lesser noctule - Nyctalus leiseri, Nathusius' pipistrelle - Pipistrellus nathusii, Natterer's bat - Myotis nattereri, Northern bat - Eptesicus nilssoni, Particoloured bat - Vespertilio murinus, Pipistrelle - Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Serotine - Eptesicus serotinus, Western barbastelle - Barbastella barbastellus, Whiskered bat - Myotis mystacinus

The UK bat species are from the families Rhinolophidae, Vespertilionidae.

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

  • Bats (Horseshoe) and Bats (Typical) are included on both Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 . (W5.Jan01). Under this legislation the killing, injury or "taking" (capture) of bats is prohibited. It is also prohibited to:
    • deliberately disturb bats, whether or not they are in a roost
    • damage or destroy a bat roost
    • obstruct access by bats to a bat roost
    • possess or transport a bat or part of a bat (unless this was acquired legally)
    • to sell, barter or exchange bats or parts of bats.

      (B168.1.w1)

       

  • A licence from the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (English Nature, Scottish National Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales, Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland) is required for catching and handling bats, ringing and marking etc.
  • A licence also is required if a known bat roost (including a bat box which is or has been used by bats) is to be entered

    (B168.1.w1).

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

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Transportation of Animals

Animal Health Act 1981 (Welfare of Animals During Transport Order 1997)

In general terms, animals being transported are protected under the Animal Health Act 1981 (including the Welfare of Animals During Transport Order 1997 (LUK13.O1)), and Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000 (which provide that no "unnecessary suffering" should be caused to an animal in the course of transport).

General

The Animal Health Act 1981 Transit of Animals (General) Order 1973 (LUK13.O1) provided that:

  • Receptacle in which animals are transported must:
  • Be suitable for the species being transported.
  • Include a means of inspection of the animal 
  • Allow the animal to stand, turn around, lie down
  • Provide suitable ventilation and temperature.
  • Provide suitable bedding
  • Food and water must be provided at suitable (species-based) intervals.
  • Animals should not be transported in the sight of a natural predator.

(B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21, B223, P19.2.w1, LUK13.O2, W65).

IATA and CITES

Specific reference under the Animal Health Act 1981 Transit of Animals (General) Order 1973 is made to the transport of animals listed under CITES and also transportation by air (LUK13.O1)

  • Article (11) states that:

    • 11. - (1) No person shall transport an animal by air except in compliance with the standards set by the International Air Transport Association.

    • 11. - (2) No person shall transport an animal to which the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species[8] refers except in compliance with the CITES guidelines for transport and preparation for shipment of live wild animals or in compliance with the standards set by the International Air Transport Association.

Transportation of Animals Legislation - Deer Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Taking of Animals" section above)

Deer Considerations Capreolus capreolus - Western roe deer, Cervus elaphus - Red deer, Cervus nippon - Sika deer, Dama dama - Fallow deer, Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac. (Hydropotes inermis - Chinese water deer do not have antlers)

These species are from the family Cervidae.

Animal Health Act 1981

  • Specific reference is made to the transportation of deer in velvet:
    • Article (6) states that: "No person shall transport a deer in velvet unless the journey is of 50 km or less and special precautions are taken to protect it from injury or unnecessary suffering."

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Keeping (Holding) of Animals

Various Acts relate to the keeping or holding or animals in captivity. Some legislation relates to the keeping of certain species, either prohibiting such keeping or requiring a licence if animals of such species are to be kept. Frequently licences have provisions attached to them. Other legislation relates to the manner in which animals are kept and provides protection against cruelty.

N.B. It is important when keeping/tending an animal to avoid taming or anything else which may reduce the animal's chances of survival once released (J35.147.w1).

Members of the Public / Visitors to Rehabilitation and Rescue Centres:

  • Any collection containing non-domesticated animals which is open to the public for more than seven days a year requires a zoo licence under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (B156.21.w21). 

Protection of Wild Animals held in Captivity:

Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000 

  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the this Act.
  • This legislation makes it an offence to treat a captive or domestic animal cruelly or to cause it "unnecessary suffering". Included within this is an obligation on the keeper of any animal to provide proper attention and care for that animal, including the provision of accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and includes facilities for the animal's normal way of life, and provision of appropriate veterinary attention

    (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21, B223)

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

  • The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Section 8 makes it an offence to keep any bird in a cage or other receptacle which is not large enough to allow it to stretch its wings freely in all directions. Exemptions are made for poultry and for birds during transportation, while being exhibited (for a maximum aggregate of 72 hours) and while a bird is undergoing examination or treatment by a veterinary surgeon. Birds under the care of a lay person must be kept in a cage which is sufficiently large to allow the bird to stretch its wings fully (B156.21.w21, B223, D31).

Liability for wild animals kept in captivity:

  • Under the Animals Act 1971 and the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 a person who keeps an animal of a non-domestic species which is liable to cause severe damage is liable for any injury or damage which it causes. This applies even if there was no negligence on the part of the person keeping the animal. (B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21, B223)
  • Nuisance caused by animals in captivity: Animals may, while in captivity, produce "nuisance" (e.g. noise or smells) which cause disturbance to a neighbourhood and constitute a nuisance. A court injunction could be obtained requiring that such a nuisance be remedied. (B142.4.w4, B223).

Restrictions on the Keeping of certain animals:

The keeping of some species is specifically mentioned within the following legislation, and specific information on these Acts has been included below this section:

Keeping (Holding) of Animals Legislation - Zoo Licensing Act 1981
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Keeping (Holding) of Animals" section above)

Zoo Licensing Act 1981
  • Any collection containing non-domesticated animals which is open to the public for more than seven days a year requires a zoo licence under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (B156.21.w21). 
  • Under EC Regulation 338/97 if any animal included on Annex A of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) is on display to the public for gain an Article 10 Certificate must be obtained; a zoo may obtain an Article 30 Certificate covering the display of all Annex A specimens in their collection. (D53).
  • Establishments requiring a Zoo Licence must comply with the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice which provide detailed guidance on the requirements for keeping non-domestic species. (V.w6)
  • The Hazardous Animals list of the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice should also be consulted when considering species-specific information. (V.w6)

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Keeping (Holding) of Animals Legislation - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Keeping (Holding) of Animals" section above)

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
  • The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence (Section 9(2)) for a person to have in their possession or control any live or dead Schedule 5 animal. If such an animal is being kept it must be proved that it was permitted to take it from the wild, e.g. as a casualty animal which is being cared for (B142.4.w4, B223).
  • Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Section 8 makes it an offence to keep any bird in a cage or other receptacle which is not large enough to allow it to stretch its wings freely in all directions. Exemptions are made for poultry and for birds during transportation, while being exhibited (for a maximum aggregate of 72 hours) and while a bird is undergoing examination or treatment by a veterinary surgeon.(B156.21.w21, D31).
  • All birds listed on Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and being held in captivity, including sick and injured birds being held for the purpose of rehabilitation, must be registered with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) (now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)), under the Wildlife and Countryside (Registration and Ringing of Certain Captive Birds) Regulations 1982. Birds of prey and some other species must also be ringed with a uniquely numbered band supplied by the DETR (now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)).  (W5.Jan01, B223, P19.2.w1, P19.2.w1, D31).
    • There is a General Licence (presently valid in England for the period from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2001) allowing Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Practitioners to hold a Schedule 4 bird under their care for up to 6 weeks without a licence and without the bird being registered with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) (now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)), so long as records are kept of each bird kept and the bird is receiving professional veterinary treatment.
    • The "Licensed Rehabilitation Keeper" status under which certain persons were able to keep Schedule 4 bird species for up to six weeks without registering the bird is no longer applicable.
    • However, there is a General Licence, presently valid from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2001, which allows certain people to keep a disabled wild-bred Schedule 4 bird solely for the purpose of tending it and releasing it when no longer disabled ... for the period of 15 days commencing with the day on which the licensed person takes into his possession or control the disabled wild-bred Schedule 4 bird. The terms and conditions include a requirement for the licensed person, to notify the Secretary of State for the Environment (DETR) (now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)) within four days, and to keep records.
    • It is necessary for anyone not covered by either of the two General Licences mentioned above who is keeping a bird listed on Schedule 4 to inform the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) (now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)), and be given a temporary licence to keep the bird. A cable tie will be issued to be fitted to the bird for temporary identification and the situation reviewed after six weeks. There is a fee for issuing a licence. (W5.Jan01)
    • Schedule 4 raptors which, due to permanent disability, cannot be released, have to be ringed with a numbered cable tie. Additionally, if used for breeding and display a microchip transponder must be implanted (J15.20.w3).
    • If a registered Schedule 4 bird is moved to a new address, sold or otherwise disposed of, dies, escapes into the wild, is released into the wild or is exported, DOE (now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)) must be notified. If the bird is transferred to a new owner, or if a ring is removed, lost or becomes unreadable, the bird must be re-registered (B223).

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Keeping (Holding) of Animals Legislation - Protection of Badgers Act 1992
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Keeping (Holding) of Animals" section above)

Protection of Badgers Act 1992
  • Badgers have additional protection under the The Protection of Badgers Act 1992: Section 4: It is an offence for any person to sell or offer for sale or possess or control a live badger. Under this legislation, as under the Badgers Act 1973 (a piece of legislation which this Act has superseded), it is a specific offence to "cruelly ill-treat" a badger. Keeping a badger in a too small or otherwise inappropriate cage could be an offence under this legislation (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01). 

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Keeping (Holding) of Animals Legislation - Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Keeping (Holding) of Animals" section above)

Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 Orders of the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932:

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Keeping (Holding) of Animals Legislation - Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (as amended by The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (Modification) Order 1984)
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Keeping (Holding) of Animals" section above)

Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (as amended by The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (Modification) Order 1984)
  • The full list of species listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (as amended by The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (Modification) Order 1984) is not included the Wildpro "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" module. The legislation should be consulted.
  • This Act regulates the circumstances in which certain potentially dangerous species are kept and thereby both protects the public from harm and promotes the welfare of the animals concerned.
  • The Act requires licensing for the keeping of dangerous/exotic species listed in the 1984 Order at private premises.
  • Some species of animal which are found wild in the UK are listed in the 1984 Order and are affected by the Act. They include: Felis silvestris - Wild cat, Sus scrofa - Wild boar and the Vipera berus - Common viper (adder).

(B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21, J3.102.w11)

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Treating animals

Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000
  • The Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000 require that treatment on an animal be carried out without causing the animal "unnecessary suffering" and that surgical operations are performed with due care and humanity. (B142.4.w4). 
  • A person who legally takes a wild animal may claim it as his or her property while it is restrained in a pen/enclosure or remains with the owner or on his/her land. (J35.147.w1, B142).
  • Problems may arise if the "owner" brings an animal to a treatment centre and subsequently is dissatisfied with the treatment (which may include euthanasia) given to that animal. (J35.147.w1)
  • A standard form is advisable for rehabilitation centres/vets to be signed by a person depositing an animal, indicating a transfer of "ownership" of the animal to the rehabilitator/vet. However some authors have indicated that this may not have a very strong legal standing. (J35.147.w1). (See: Record Keeping)

Veterinary Surgeon's Act 1966

  • The Veterinary Surgeon's Act 1966 prohibits the treatment of animals other than by a veterinarian registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, except for certain exemptions.
    • First aid measures may be taken by any person in an emergency to save life or relieve pain.
    • Minor medical treatment may be given to an animal by its owner or employee of the owner or a member of the owner's household. (must be over 18 years old, or 17 if participating in animal husbandry training as defined in the Act). 

      (J35.147.w1, B142.4.w4, B223, P19.2.w1).

    • It is important for ownership to be transferred from the person who has found and taken into captivity an injured or sick wild animal to a rehabilitation centre in order that personnel of that centre may provide treatment as allowed under the Act (B223).

Medicines Act 1968

  • Supply, sale and administration of medicinal products are controlled by the Medicines Act 1968. Sale and supply are regulated according to category.
  • Definitions of legal categories:
    • GSL: "A medicine which comes within the General Sale List." (B202)
    • P: "A pharmacy medicine." (B202)
    • POM: "A prescription only medicine." (B202)
    • PML: "A medicine which comes within The Medicines (Exemptions for Merchants in Veterinary Drugs) Order 1998 and its successors." (B202)
  • A veterinary surgeon may only dispense PML or POM drugs for administration to animals "under his care". The veterinary surgeon should have seen the animals recently or have sufficient knowledge of their state of health, for proper diagnosis/prescription and should have real not nominal responsibility for the animals concerned. 
  • POM medicines may only be administered by a veterinary surgeon or a person acting "in accordance with the directions" of a veterinary surgeon.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (including the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985)

  • The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (including the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985) restrict the possession and supply of "controlled" drugs. Such drugs (including some drugs which may be used for the purposes of chemical restraint, analgesia (pain relief) etc.) may be supplied only to a person who is legally entitled to possess a controlled drug for administration for veterinary purposes in accordance with the directions of a veterinary surgeon.
  • (B142, B223, J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1).

Protection of Animals (Anaesthetics) Acts 1954 and 1964

  • These Acts make it illegal to carry out an operation on an animal which involves its sensitive tissue or bone structure without using anaesthesia sufficient to prevent the animal from feeling pain.
  • The spirit of these Acts is to prevent painful procedures being carried out without the administration of an appropriate anaesthetic.
  • Within the wording of this legislation, the term "animal" specifically excludes "fowl or other bird, fish or reptile" but does include all other vertebrates. 
  • (B223, D28).

Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

  • Under the Removal of Antlers in Velvet (Anaesthetics) Order the removal of deer antlers while they are in velvet must be undertaken with the deer under anaesthesia sufficient to prevent pain. Exceptions are made for removal of antlers in an emergency to save life or relieve pain, and for experiments authorised under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (B223).

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Release of Animals

N.B. There is a legal requirement to return protected animals to the wild once they are no longer disabled (B142.4.w4, J15.20.w3, P19.2.w1).

Abandonment of Animals Act, 1960

  • It is an offence under this Act for a person having control or charge of an animal to, without reasonable excuse, abandon it permanently or otherwise in circumstances likely to cause "unnecessary suffering". 
  • An offence may be committed under Section 1 of this Act if a released animal does not have a reasonable chance of survival (i.e. a chance similar to its non-rehabilitated peers). 
  • This may include release at an unsuitable site, in the wrong territory, unfit, not having learned to hunt, at the wrong time of year etc. 

(J15.20.w3, J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01, B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21,B223).

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Section 14

It is an offence under this Act for any person to release or allow to escape into the wild any animal which:

(a) is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or
(b) is included in Part I of Schedule 9 (see section below on Tyto alba - Barn owl and Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac for specific guidance on release).

It is imperative that the list of species in Schedule 9 is consulted before any releases are undertaken
(the full text is available in Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981)

However, no offence is committed if the person can show that:

  • he took all reasonable steps and exercised due diligence to avoid committing the offence; or
  • a licence has been issued under section 16 of the Act and all the conditions have been complied with." (W5.Jan01)

(W5.Jan01, J15.20.w3, J35.147.w1, D31, B142.4.w4, B223)

Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932

Pests Act 1954

  • An amendment to the Pests Act 1954 makes it an offence to release a rabbit with signs of myxomatosis where other rabbits may become infected. (J35.147.w1)

Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000

N.B. under the Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000 it may be an offence to use confined live vertebrate prey (including fish) to train captive animals to hunt (J35.147.w1).

  • "Although the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 to 1964 do not prohibit the feeding of animals with live prey, the live feeding of vertebrate prey should be avoided save in exceptional circumstances, and then only under veterinary advice. Where any live prey must be used, its welfare must be considered as well as any potential injury which might be caused to the predator." (D15 - Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice)

"Release" of Animals Legislation - Muntjak Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Release" section above)

Muntjak Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

  • The muntjac deer (Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac) was added to Schedule 9 in The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedule 9) Order 1997. Licences may be issued for the release of muntjac within the 12 "Core counties" defined by Joint Nature Conservation Council (JNCC) (Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and Warwickshire). Licences are normally valid for a period of two years and a condition of the licence is that the individual muntjac are released within 1km of their point of origin. Additionally, the licence holder is required to complete a six-monthly return detailing muntjac which have been passed through the facilities. Licences may be applied for from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) by writing to:

    Dr Andrew Wakeham-Dawson, 
    Licensing under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Section 14
    Biotechnology Safety Unit, Chemicals and Biotechnology Division
    Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
    (DEFRA)
    Floor 3 / H11
    Ashdown House
    123 Victoria Street
    London
    SW1 6DE

(V.w29)

"Release" of Animals Legislation - Barn owl Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Release" section above)

Barn Owl Considerations Tyto alba - Barn owl

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

The following information is quoted from the section on Wildlife Crime in the website of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (W5.Jan01):

  • "The Barn owl has now been included in Part I of Schedule 9 to the WCA [Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981] and section 14(1)(b) of the Act applies. Subject to the provisions of this part if any person releases or allows to escape into the wild any animal which is included in Part I of Schedule 9 he shall be guilty of an offence. Barn owls, however, can still be released as long as a licence under section 16 has been issued authorising a person to do so. This licence is obtainable from the DETR.
  • The Barn owl is also a species of bird that is included in Schedule 1 and is, therefore, protected by a special penalty."

A general licence (DETR general licence number WLF 100100, which came into force 7th January 1997) allows the release of wild barn owls which have been taken into care temporarily for the purposes of rehabilitation. A special licence must be obtained from DETR (now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)) in order to release captive bred barn owls. (J15.20.w3, D53)

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Marking of Animals and other Research

  • Follow-up of wildlife casualties after release requires some form of marking. This may require a licence, depending on the species, the method of marking and what type of tracking system is to be used.
  • If an animal is to be caught in the wild for MARKING (for example after release) the need for a licence must be considered on the grounds the the animal must first be "TAKEN". Consult the earlier section on "Taking of Animals" on this page.

IN ADDITION TO SPECIES SPECIFIC INFORMATION, THE FOLLOWING LEGISLATION SHOULD BE CONSIDERED:

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

  • Species on Schedule 5: a licence is required from the Nature Conservancy Council (now English Nature, Scottish National Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales) to "take" by any means specifically "for the purpose" of marking or examining a mark. It may be that a licence would not be required for e.g. hair clipping or ringing under this act, except that re-examination of the mark would require a licence, therefore it would be prudent to apply for a licence before marking a Schedule 5 species. (J35.147.w1).
  • Species on Schedule 6: a licence is required for marking if these species are caught other than by hand, since a licence is required to catch these species if caught by any form of trap, snare or device (J35.147.w1).
  • Licences allowing the "taking" and possession of protected species and the use of methods of "taking" which would otherwise be prohibited may be issued under Section 16 of the Act for the purposes of ringing and marking. (B223)
  • Licences for ringing or marking may be applied for from English Nature, Scottish National Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales. (D31)
  • In Britain bird ringing must be undertaken by someone with a BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) ringing licence. (B118.20.w20)

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

  • This Act makes it illegal to carry out experiments or procedures on any vertebrate which may cause it pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.
  • The Act prohibits actions such as anaesthetising an animal or taking a blood sample from an animal for research purposes without both a personal licence and a project licence from the Home Office. (J35.147.w1) This would be likely to include procedures such as abdominal radio-transmitters and other invasive forms of marking. (V.w6)
  • If an animal is anaesthetised for welfare reasons it could legally be tagged or tattooed during the recovery period - but a licence would still be required if the animal were of a species for which a licence was required for marking. (J35.147.w1)
  • Extending the period of anaesthesia to allow marking might require a Home Office Licence
  • Taking extra blood over and above that needed for diagnosis is a grey area and a Home Office Licence might be required. The Home Office should be consulted. (J35.147.w1)

Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949

  • This Act may require a Department of Trade and Industry licence for the use of a radiocollar for post-release monitoring, depending on the waveband and the strength of the equipment used.
  • Use of 173.200 - 173.350 MHz band, with an approved type of equipment and a power output of less than 1 milliwatt does not require a licence.
  • Use of the other waveband available (173.700 - 174.000) or with a power output of greater than 1 millliwatt does require a licence.
  • N.B. It is important to ensure that the correct collar/harness design is used and preferably the device should drop off after the required period. (J35.147.w1)

"Marking" of Animals and other Research: Legislation - Insectivorous bat Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Marking of Animals and other Research" section above)

Insectivorous bats Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
  • A licence from the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (English Nature, Scottish National Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales, Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland) is required for catching and handling bats, ringing and marking etc. A licence is required if a known bat roost (including a bat box which is or has been used by bats) is to be entered (B168.1.w1).
  • Licences for ringing and marking bats, including attachment of transmitters etc. are granted only for research projects with clear objectives (B168.1.w1). A specific licence is required for the use of rings (bands) as they may cause damage to the bat (B168.6.w6).

"Marking" of Animals and other Research: Legislation - Badger Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Marking of Animals and other Research" section above)

Badgers Protection of Badgers Act 1992
  • The Badgers Act 1963: included a specific requirement of a licence from the Nature Conservancy Council  (now English Nature, Scottish National Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales) to mark badgers (section 9.1(c)) as well as to "take" for marking. (J35.147.w1)
  • This requirement has been continued under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992: Section 4: "It is an offence for any person to sell or offer for sale or possess or control a live badger. Section 5: It is an offence for any person not authorised by licence to mark or attach a ring/tag/other device to any badger. NOTE: Researchers can be granted licences to mark badgers for purposes of study." (W5.Jan01)

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Killing of Animals

There are prohibitions under various Acts against the killing of many species of animals and against certain methods of killing other species. However, the various pieces of legislation usually include exemptions for the killing of ill or injured animals for the purposes of preventing suffering. Humane methods must be used in such cases and the damage to the animal must not have resulted from illegal actions of the person who is killing the animal.

It is important to realise that using smaller-bore weapons than those normally permitted, even at close range, may make it difficult to kill an animal humanely. There are legal restrictions on the types of weapons and calibers of firearm which can be used to kill certain protected species: deer, seals and badgers (J35.147.w1).

The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996

The following information is quoted from the section on Wildlife Crime in the website of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (W5.Jan01):

  • "The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 is the principle legislation protecting wild animals from cruelty, although the provision of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 (1912 in Scotland), primarily applicable to domestic animals, also applies to wild animals if they are in captivity. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act does not apply to Northern Ireland which has had similar legislation since 1972 (see Chapter 8). The Act creates one offence:

Section 1: Any person who mutilates, kicks, beats, nails or otherwise impales, stabs, burns, stones, crushes, drowns, drags or asphyxiates any wild mammal with intent to inflict "unnecessary suffering" shall be guilty of an offence (W5.Jan01)

  • EXCEPTIONS (A person is not guilty of an offence under the Act):
  • the attempted killing of any such wild mammal as an act of mercy if he shows that the mammal had been so disabled, other than by his unlawful act, that there was no reasonable chance of its recovering;
  • the killing in a reasonably swift and humane manner of any such mammal if he shows it had been injured or taken in the course of either lawful shooting, hunting, coursing or pest control activity;
  • doing anything which is authorised or under any enactment;
  • any act made unlawful under section 1 if the act was done by means of any snare, trap, dog or bird lawfully used for the purpose of killing or taking any wild mammal; or
  • the lawful use of any poisonous or noxious substance.

These exceptions place an onus on a person to 'show' good reason for any particular action which would otherwise be deemed unlawful.

  • EXAMPLES (The exceptions mean that it is not an offence under this Act):
  • to try and despatch a wild mammal that has been seriously injured in a road accident; or
  • to humanely kill a rat caught in a legal trap or a fox injured by hounds."

(W5.Jan01)

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 the killing of most birds and some other animals is prohibited. Nevertheless if an animal is seriously injured or otherwise incapacitated a decision must be made whether to kill an animal on humanitarian grounds. (J35.147.w1)

  • There is provision within the law for a person to kill an otherwise protected species if it is not likely to recover from its injuries, as long as the animal's injuries were not the consequence of the illegal action of that person.
  • In all cases it is important to ensure that the animal is killed humanely and quickly.
  • Reasons for killing may include irreversible damage to a limb (e.g. requirement for amputation), pelvic injuries in a female animal, requirement for sterilisation etc.

    (J35.147.w1, B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21, B223, P19.2.w1).

  • N.B. The list of items (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 section 11.2(a)-(e)) which may not be used to kill Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 species holds true for mercy killing: they may not be used for killing injured animals (J35.147.w1).

Conservation of Seals Act 1970

  • Conservation of Seals Act 1970 Section 9.2 permits the killing of a seriously disabled seal with no reasonable chance of recovery (despite restrictions set out in section 1 of the act). (J35.147.w1)

Deer Act 1991, Deer (Scotland) Act 1996

  • The Deer Act 1991 specifies minimum caliber of 0.24 inches and sufficient muzzle velocity to kill a healthy deer. However the use of other firearms to kill sick/injured deer is permitted. (D28). The range of firearms which are permitted in this instance are set out in the Act. 
  • The Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 grants an exemption (Section 25):

    "A person shall not be guilty of an offence against this Act or any order made under this Act in respect of any act done for the purpose of preventing suffering by
    (a) an injured or diseased deer; or
    (b) by any deer calf, fawn or kid deprived, or about to be deprived, of its mother."

    (W65)

Protection of Badgers Act 1992

  • Protection of Badgers Act 1992 "Section 2(1)(d) Killing badgers by prohibited means. It is an offence for any person to kill or "take"any badger by use of any firearm other than:
    • a shotgun of bore greater than 20 bore or
    • a rifle using ammunition of muzzle energy not less than 160 footpounds and bullet greater than 38 grains."

      (W5.Jan01)

Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997

The ownership and use of firearms and ammunition is regulated under Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997. A permit is required before a “captive bolt” type of weapon or a bullet-firing weapon (or a shotgun) is obtained. The person wishing to obtain either of these must apply to the Chief Constable of the district in which he/she lives for an appropriate Firearms or Shotgun Certificate. (D64)

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Human Health Consideration

There are at least four major sections of legislation which are directly applicable to wildlife rehabilitation. It is important to remember that the handling of wild animals involves a risk of physical injuries and diseases which may be transmitted from wildlife casualties. (J35.147.w1)
  • Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 applies to protect any employees. This would cover a wildlife hospital, as well as volunteers at the hospital and visitors. Appropriate safety procedures must be provided to take into account any special risks involved with persons working with non-domesticated species (J35.147.w1, B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21)
  • Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1964 makes insurance of employees compulsory (J35.147.w1).
  • Animals Act 1971 and the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 require persons having non-domesticated species in their possession to take care to ensure that such animals do not injure people. Liability is imposed on the person having possession of such an animal unless the person suffering such injury consented or contributed to it. This applies even if there was no negligence on the part of the person keeping the animal. (B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21)

In addition, if the institution caring for non-domesticated animals is open to the public for more than seven days a year it requires a zoo licence under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and must comply with safety sections within the Secretary of State's Standards for Modern Zoos and the specific guidance provided by the "Health and Safety Executive Code of Practice in Zoos". (V.w6)

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UK Contact Organisations and Published Guidelines for Further Reading (Electronic Library)

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Authors & Referees

Author Suzanne Boardman
Referees Becki Lawson and Debra Bourne

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