Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and the Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 2011, a pet owner has a legal duty to ensure the welfare of his animal(s). A pet’s welfare needs include:

  • A proper diet
  • Somewhere suitable to live
  • Any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • Allowing animals to express normal behaviour
  • Protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease

The penalty for failing to care for a pet could be a fine of up to £20,000 or even a prison sentence. For more information, see the codes of practice for companion animal welfare on the Defra website.

Dangerous Dogs:

It is illegal to own a dog prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. If you are found to be in possession of one of these dogs you could face a fine or even a prison sentence. The police may also seize your dog if they think it is a banned type. If you have any concerns that an animal you are thinking of buying could be a banned type, PAAG’s advice is not to buy it and to report it to the relevant publisher’s customer services or helpline. The Dangerous Dogs Act bans ownership, breeding, sale and exchange and advertising for sale of four specified types of dogs. The dogs covered by the ban (under section 1 of the DDA) are:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Fila Brasiliero
  • Dogo Argentino

The ban also extends to any crosses of the above dogs.

Tail Docking:

England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

It is legal for a veterinary surgeon to dock a puppy of specified breeds from a working bitch. The criteria for ‘working’ are essentially: working to the gun; as a terrier; or for the police or other government agency. Dogs docked as working dogs must be permanently identified with a microchip and must have a certificate from the veterinary surgeon who docked the puppy. Any dog docked after the legislation came into force must have a certificate. Irrespective of where they were docked, they may not be shown at shows in England and Wales where the public is charged a fee for admission. However if the competition is on the ability of the dogs, such as field trials or agility, docked dogs may compete.


It is illegal to dock a puppy or to remove it from the country to have it docked elsewhere. However if they were docked legally either in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or abroad they may be shown at any show in Scotland.

For more information about tail docking please read the factsheet below:
Docking of Dogs’ Tails

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014:

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill (now Act) came into force in October 2014.  This Act impacts on the handling of anti-social behaviour involving dogs, and introduced a system of measures (such as, for example, Community Protection Notices) to help prevent incidents involving poorly behaved dogs and their irresponsible owners from spiralling out of control.

Compulsory Microchipping:

From 1st March 2015 in Wales and 6th April 2016 in England, all dogs will need to be microchipped to allow local authorities to trace stray, abandoned or stolen dogs and reunite them with their owners. The legislation is also anticipated to help identify the owners of troublesome dogs. The penalty for failing to have your dog microchipped is a fine of up to £500. Microchipping has been compulsory in Northern Ireland since 2012. The Scottish Government has recently consulted on the proposal.

While microchipping is recommended for all cat owners as well as dogs, there are no current plans to make microchipping compulsory for cats.


Under the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, a breeder needs a licence from their local authority if they are breeding puppies with the intention to sell. Breeders must not breed from a bitch less than a year old, more than twice a year or more than six times overall. When buying from a commercial breeder it is wise to ask to see their licence, and look out for very young or exhausted dams (mothers). There is no equivalent legislation for other household pets.

Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976:

It is an offence to own, sell or buy an animal included in this act without a licence obtained from your local authority. This includes crosses with animals such as wolves and wild cats. Infringements of the licence conditions or failure to obtain a licence are punishable with a fine of up to £2000.