Animal cruelty (Revised 2017)

Animal Welfare Act 2006, s.4 (unnecessary suffering), s.8 (fighting etc), s.9 (breach of duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare)
Effective from: 24 April 2017

Triable only summarily:
Maximum: Unlimited fine and/or 6 months
Offence range: Band A fine – 26 weeks’ custody

User guide for this offence


Step 1 – Determining the offence category

The court should determine culpability and harm caused with reference only to the factors below. Where an offence does not fall squarely into a category, individual factors may require a degree of weighting before making an overall assessment and determining the appropriate offence category.

CULPABILITY demonstrated by one or more of the following:

Factors indicating high culpability

  • Deliberate or gratuitous attempt to cause suffering
  • Prolonged or deliberate ill treatment or neglect
  • Ill treatment in a commercial context
  • A leading role in illegal activity

Factors indicating medium culpability

  • All cases not falling into high or low culpability

Factors indicating low culpability

  • Well intentioned but incompetent care
  • Mental disorder or learning disability, where linked to the commission of the offence

HARM demonstrated by one or more of the following:

Factors indicating greater harm

  • Death or serious injury/harm to animal
  • High level of suffering caused

Factors indicating lesser harm

  • All other cases