Animal Welfare Act celebrates 15th Birthday

08 NOVEMBER 2021

On 8th November 2006, the Queen granted Royal Assent to the Animal Welfare Act. Since 2006 there have been numerous updates to animal welfare law but the 2006 Act laid the foundations for many of the protections animals enjoy today.

Battersea Chief Executive Peter Laurie spoke to Sir Roger Gale MP, who chaired the House of Commons Bill Committee that passed the Bill in 2006.

Chief Executive Peter Laurie

Peter Laurie: At Battersea we’re always campaigning for better protections for dogs and cats; earlier this year the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act was passed, finally making five-year maximum sentences for acts of animal cruelty the standard across the UK. We are not complacent and there are further changes to the law we’d still like to see, but we rightly recognise that the law on animal welfare has come far over recent decades.

The 2006 Act replaced several laws, some of which were nearly a century old. It applied the ‘five animal welfare needs’, the principles underpinning modern animal welfare, to pets for the first time, and created a number of animal cruelty offences, including banning mutilations such as the cosmetic tail docking of dogs.

On behalf of every dog and cat, thank you for your help in ensuring this law came to be!

Sir Roger Gale MP

Sir Roger Gale MP: Before the 2006 Act, animal welfare law was governed by more than 20 different Acts, with dogs and cats covered by the Protection of Animals Act 1911. The Government wanted to modernise the law with a new Act that would bring together and improve the existing laws, and it was an ambitious aim.

I chaired the Bill Committee that considered numerous amendments. As Chair I had to take an impartial role in consideration of the Bill but it was wonderful to see the passion for animals that the debate generated amongst colleagues from all sides of the House.

These days we take animals’ access to things like a suitable diet and protection from pain and disease as a given, but at the time it was a big step to formally enshrine this in law. A key source of support in developing the Bill was the range of animal welfare organisations that presented evidence.

The Act may now be 15 years old, but it’s protected countless animals and continues to do so, and I think that we can take pride in creating a law that has stood the test of time.

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