Legislation relating to animals differs from one country to another except when there is International Agreement. Even with International Agreements all countries of the world may not be signatories, and some of the countries that are signatories may be politically unwilling or unable to enforce the legislation within their International borders.

Therefore, the fact that there is a piece of legislature does not, in itself, ensure that the objectives of the legislation are achieved. To a large extent the success of any legislation depends upon a general acceptance by society of the principles encapsulated in the law. If society as a whole does not agree with a law it will continue to flaunt it. Another important concept is that society must be able and willing to enforce the law. A law without teeth is likely to be ineffectual especially if it is attempting to change accepted practices and alter fundamental attitudes within a population. There are many documented examples of the inadequacies of current legislation in it's attempts to protect the welfare of animals and this is one of the reasons why there is a proliferation of Charities concerned with animal welfare issues.

In the United Kingdom, most of Western Europe the United States of America and other so-called advanced countries there are numerous laws designed to protect animals, and to control their nuisance to society. Yet, at the same time, there is evidence of continuing cruelty to animals of all types despite the impression that is sometimes given that we are a society of "animal lovers". Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the UK regularly report its' most successful years for prosecutions under the Protection of Animals Acts in their history ! Is this a reflection of societies retrograde progress in this area, is it a reflection of increased activity by the RSPCA to prosecute offenders - or have the Courts altered their attitude to such cases brought to them resulting in more prosecutions ?

Whilst ignorance of a law is no defence for an offender - it is important that the public as a whole do know about the laws that exist and particularly those which directly affect them. Many animal owners that I speak to simply do not know what laws exist - though they often share common sense attitudes or have moral standards that are in line with current legislation. The purpose of this section is to draw animal owners attention to the existing legislation in the United Kingdom and increase awareness and understanding about the issues that it covers.

In the United Kingdom animal welfare is covered by four types of legislation :

1. Legislation to protect animals from cruelty

2. Legislation to protect the welfare of animals kept in commercial enterprises

3. Legislation to protect society from the nuisance of animals
4. Legislation to protect the welfare of animals involved in research

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986


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