Animals – Disqualification from Keeping
For many people, keeping animals as pets is hugely enjoyable, and most people go to great lengths to look after their pets. However, not everybody does, and there are occasions when the courts have to intervene.
Section 34 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 states that a court may make an order disqualifying a defendant from keeping animals.
When can the order be made?
The defendant must have been convicted of a specified offence under the Animal Welfare Act in order to face disqualification from keeping animals.
These offences include:
Causing unnecessary suffering (s. 4)
Mutilation (s. 5)
Docking of dogs’ tails (s. 6(1) and 6(2))
Administration of poisons (s. 7)
Fighting (s. 8)
Breach of duty to ensure welfare (s. 9)
Breach of licensing or registration requirements (s. 13)
Breach of disqualification order (s. 36)
In addition, when considering the making of a disqualification order, regard can properly be had to previous convictions.
The purpose of the order is not to punish the offender; rather, the sole purpose of it is to protect the future welfare of other animals.
What is the scope of the order?
Disqualification from keeping animals can include one or more of the following parts:
Disqualifies a person –
(a) from owning animals,
(b) from keeping animals,
(c) from participating in the keeping of animals, and
(d) from being party to an arrangement under which he is entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept.
(a) disqualifies a person from dealing in animals.
Disqualifies a person –
(a) from transporting animals, and
(b) from arranging for the transport of animals.
It’s also important to note that disqualification may be imposed in relation to animals in general, or in relation to animals of one or more specific kinds.
Exceptions to the order
As with everything, though, there are exceptions to the rules.
In R (RSPCA) v Guildford Crown Court (2012), the court held that whilst ordinarily the exclusions contained in Part 1 must be included as part of a disqualification order, it may be appropriate not to do so if the defendant’s human rights would be infringed.
It is also not permissible when making a disqualification order to allow for the keeping of a maximum number of animals, as per R (RSPCA) v Chester Crown Court  EWHC 1273 (Admin), a case based on section 1 Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954, which was couched in the same terms as section 34 of the 2006 Act.
This case also emphasises an important point in relation to the making of a discharge as a way of avoiding disqualification in an appropriate case.
Can a disqualification order be avoided?
We realise that orders of this type can cause significant distress and upset, which is why it is vital that all the safeguards in case law and legislation are followed before such orders are made.
Can an order be terminated?
Yes, however the court may specify the minimum period before an offender may apply for termination of the order. If no period is specified, an offender may not apply for termination of the order until one year after the order was made.
How JFH Crime can help
If you face proceedings for an offence under the 2006 Act or have been made subject to an order of this type and wish to discuss whether it can be challenged, get in touch with our specialist team to find out more about how we can help.
With over 30 years of collective experience within the criminal justice system, our team includes some of the country’s brightest legal minds and we are proud to work to exceptionally high standards.
We will always deliver unparalleled client care and satisfaction, whatever your case, and are committed to achieving excellent results for all of our clients.
Contact us today for further help and advice
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch.
Simply call us on 0207 388 1658 to discuss your needs and discover how we can help, or for 24-hour emergencies call 07939 958767.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.