< > LUK11 - Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000 (including the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Acts 1912-1993)

General Information

The information provided within these pages provides a background to the legislation issues.

Date 1911-2000. Latest legislation: Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 2000
Wildpro "Organisations & Website" Reference
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Text Availability (e.g. HMSO / Copyright / Public Domain etc.) HMSO: Crown Copyright. The authoritative versions of Acts are usually the "Queen's Printer" copies (often published by The Stationery Office Limited). Details of how to obtain the authoritative versions are available through Website Ref - W65 - Her Majesty's Stationary Office (HMSO)
Brief Overview / Significance
  • This Act is legislation against cruelty.
  • Applies to any domestic or captive animal.
  • "Captive" includes any non-domestic species not only of mammals but also birds, reptiles and fish, which are in captivity or under restraint such as caging or pinioning, to keep them confined. 
  • Temporary prevention of escape and temporary inability to escape (such inability not being caused by man) do not constitute captivity.
  • Under section 1 of the main Acts it is illegal cruelly to ill treat or, being the owner, to permit ill treatment of an animal in specified ways such as beating, terrifying and overloading.
    • "cruelly" is equated with "so as to cause unnecessary suffering"
  • It is an offence under the Acts to wantonly or unreasonably cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, by overt acts and also by omissions, e.g. failure to provide necessary food, water, care or veterinary attention.
  • Other offences under section 1 of the Acts include:
    • the transportation of an animal in a way which causes it unnecessary suffering.
    • animal fighting and baiting.
    • deliberate poisoning of an animal without reasonable cause.
    • operations performed on an animal without due care and humanity.
    • failure of the owner of an animal to exercise reasonable care and supervision over it to protect it from cruelty.
  • It is an offence to use confined live vertebrate prey including fish, to train captive animals to hunt.
  • "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)
  • Treatment of amphibians, fish and invertebrates (not covered by the Veterinary Surgeon's Act 1966) must comply with the Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; these require an operation to be carried out with due care and humanity and without unnecessary suffering.

(J35.147.w1, B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21, B223, P19.2.w1, D15)

UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care Implications

  • Police, coastguards and rescue staff can ensure that a live stranded cetacean 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)
  • The Act requires 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 this may not have a very strong legal standing. (J35.147.w1)
NOTES - Amendments / Relation to other legislation

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Specific Section References

Wildpro Reference Chapter/Paragraph Title Content Page nos.

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Text from the Act


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