For many people, keeping animals as pets is hugely enjoyable. Many 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 Act (section 4, 5, 6(1), 6(2), 7, 8 or 9).
The purpose of the order is not to punish the offender; The sole purpose is to protect the future welfare of other animals (Barker v RSPCA  EWHC 880 (Admin)).
When considering the making of a disqualification order regard can properly be had to previous convictions (Ward v RSPCA  EWHC 347 (Admin)).
What is the scope of the order?
Disqualification can include one or more of the following parts:
(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.
Disqualification may be imposed in relation to animals generally, or in relation to animals of one or more kinds.
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 not permissible when making a disqualification order to allow for the keeping of a maximum number of animals (R (RSPCA) v Chester Crown Court  EWHC 1273 (Admin), a case based on section 1(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 an order be avoided?
We realise that orders of this type can cause significant distress and upset; it is vital that all the safeguards in case law and legislation are followed before such orders are made.
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 one of our specialist team.
How we can assist
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. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.Read More
With much fanfare, ‘Finn’s Law’ came in to force on 8th June 2019, following the implementation of the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019.
The 2019 Act makes a straightforward amendment to section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
What was the problem?
Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act creates the criminal offence of ‘unnecessary suffering’ in relation to animals.
There is however a defence in the Act, namely that the suffering is ‘necessary’. In several cases where police dogs assisted in the capture of suspects, the suspect injured the dog but claimed self-defence.
In Finn’s case, Finn sustained severe stab wounds to the chest and head. However, only criminal damage charges could be brought against the suspect.
What has changed?
The Animal Welfare Act has been amended in the following way:
In determining for the purposes of subsection (1) whether suffering is unnecessary in a case where it was caused by conduct for a purpose mentioned in subsection (3)(c)(ii), the fact that the conduct was for that purpose is to be disregarded if –
(a) the animal was under the control of a relevant officer at the time of the conduct,
(b) it was being used by that officer at that time, in the course of the officer’s duties, in a way that was reasonable in all the circumstances, and
(c) that officer is not the defendant.
In basic terms this removes the self-defence argument.
Could this lead to unintended consequences?
Some people have asked what would happen if a police dog attacked an innocent person (either a bystander or an innocent suspect) – would they too be denied the opportunity to defend themselves lawfully?
The Act does on the face of it suggest that there would be no ‘self-defence’ defence available. But, in the explanatory notes to the bill that passed through parliament, it was observed:
‘…a person would be able to use the self-defence consideration at section 4(3)(c)(ii) if the animal attacked them unduly.’
It could therefore easily be argued that a police dog attempting to apprehend an innocent person would be judged to be acting ‘unduly’.
The wording of the Act does, however, leave a lot to be desired. Our lawyers will be carefully scrutinising the use of this Act over the coming months to ensure defendants are not deprived of critical legal safeguards.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 7388 1658 and let us help. We deal with all manner of criminal offences on a daily basis, from investigation through to court, and have the expertise to get you the best result possible.Read More