Cats and the Law

30 October 2014

Cats and the LawCats and the Law – a plain English guide

The Cat Group, the collaborative group of animal charities and organisations working on cat health and welfare, has published a new booklet entitled ‘Cats and the Law – a plain English guide’. The authors, Dr Angus Nurse, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Middlesex University School of Law, and Diane Ryland, Senior Lecturer at the Law School at the University of Lincoln, worked with the Cat Group to produce a research paper and also the plain English guide to Cats and the Law.

The guide is a summary of current law relating to cats, primarily the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and its introduction of a positive obligation to promote and observe animal welfare in companion animals. The guide also summarises the law on the keeping and care of a cat, issues relating to the sale or theft of cats and damage either caused by or caused to a cat. There is also a section answering some of the most frequent questions people ask about cats and their legal status so that most of what cats owners, breeders and rehoming institutes would want to know is contained within this guide.

Claire Bessant, Chief Executive of International Cat Care, which founded and acts as secretariat for the Cat Group says,‘Questions regarding the legal status of cats and what people can and cannot do in different circumstances have arisen in Cat Group meetings for many years. There are lots of grey areas where individuals and organisations want to understand what can be done, how they can act and where they stand according to the law. In some cases there is no definite answer, but the guide helps to outline what law is appropriate in different circumstances and how to think logically about what can be done. It is a highly valuable addition to our knowledge.’

Diane Ryland adds, ‘There is a case to be made for interpreting the law as it stands, in all its denominations – statutory and the common law, civil and criminal law – in order to ensure the welfare of each individual cat. It is necessary, in so doing, to reinforce the positive and negative duty to ensure mental and physical feline care on the part of all persons as well as responsible ownership.’

Angus Nurse concludes, ‘While the plain English guide is about cats and the duty to provide good standards of feline welfare, it also shows how UK animal welfare law has changed to require a positive approach to animal welfare not just the outlawing of acts of cruelty. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 promotes good standards of animal care for all companion animals and a responsible approach to sharing a home with a feline companion. It requires that those responsible for a cat must consider the welfare of each individual cat. Arguably it represents an end to a ‘standard’ approach to animal care and ushers in an era of informed, responsible animal care backed up by solid enforcement provisions.’

The guide can be found on the Cat Group website – www.thecatgroup.org.uk.

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