10. Disqualification from ownership of animals

Guideline users should be aware that the Equal Treatment Bench Book covers important aspects of fair treatment and disparity of outcomes for different groups in the criminal justice system. It provides guidance which sentencers are encouraged to take into account wherever applicable, to ensure that there is fairness for all involved in court proceedings.

Where an offender is convicted of one of the following offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the court may disqualify the offender from owning or keeping animals; from participating in the keeping of animals; from being party to an arrangement under which they are entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept; from dealing in animals; and/or from transporting or arranging the transport of animals (Animal Welfare Act 2006, s.34):

  1. causing unnecessary suffering (s.4);
  2. mutilation (s.5);
  3. docking of dogs’ tails (ss.6(1) and 6(2));
  4. administration of poisons etc. (s.7);
  5. fighting etc. (s.8);
  6. breach of duty to ensure welfare (s.9);
  7. breach of licensing or registration requirements (s.13(6));
  8. breach of disqualification order (s.34(9)).

The purpose of a disqualification order is to protect the future welfare of animals. The court must carry out a risk assessment based on the facts of the case to determine whether a disqualification order is necessary and the appropriate time period of that order. When considering making a disqualification order the court can have regard to previous convictions.

In imposing a disqualification order the court can impose an all animals order involving a prohibition against owning or keeping any animal or an order limited to a certain type of animal. An order cannot specify a number of animals that can be kept.

The court is required to give reasons if it decides not to make such an order.

The court may specify the minimum period before an offender may apply for termination of the order under section 43 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006; if no period is specified, an offender may not apply for termination of the order until one year after the order was made.

As set out in s.34(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, disqualification may be imposed instead of or in addition to dealing with the offender in any other way. The court should consider whether the purposes of sentencing are met when deciding whether to impose the disqualification order as a standalone sentence.

Where an offender is convicted of an offence contrary to s.4-9 under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and is the owner of an animal in relation to which the offence is committed, the court may also make an order depriving him or her of ownership of the animal and for its disposal (Animal Welfare Act 2006, s.33).