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Report animal cruelty or an animal in distress

Owners and keepers are responsible for the welfare of their animals. Animal cruelty or failure to meet an animal's welfare needs can result in a ban, a fine or a prison sentence.

The Five Freedoms

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are met. Commonly referred to as The Five Freedoms these include the need:

  • for a suitable environment (place to live)
  • for a suitable diet
  • to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable)
  • to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 also contains the general laws relating to animal welfare:

  • It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal including those animals on common land.
  • Anyone responsible for an animal must take reasonable steps to make sure its needs are met. This means that a person has to both look after its welfare as well as ensure that it does not suffer.
  • Anyone who is cruel to an animal, or does not provide for its welfare needs, may be banned from owning animals, fined up to £20,000 and/or sent to prison.

To report cruelty or an animal in distress in a domestic environment

If you believe that an animal in a domestic environment is being neglected or is being subjected to cruelty you should contact the RSPCA for advice, see RSPCA (opens new window).

Noise nuisances are sometimes misreported as being a welfare related issue. The person affected believes that by saying an animal is being neglected it will add importance to the problem. In most cases their concerns, especially in relation to dogs are noise caused by constantly whimpering or barking.

If you are suffering from an animal related problem such as dog barking or fouling see Report animal nuisance for more advice on who to contact.

To report cruelty or an animal in distress in a public place

If you see any wild or domestic or farm animal which you believe to be injured, or whose welfare is giving concern, in any public place, you should contact the RSPCA for advice, see RSPCA (opens new window).

If you see any animal whose welfare gives reason for concern and which you believe to be in immediate danger, such as a dog locked in a hot car, you should contact Essex Police, see Essex Police (opens new window).

To report cruelty or an animal in distress in the commercial environment

There is legislation, regulation, licensing and guidance relating to the welfare of animals in a commercial environment, for example:

  • farms
  • pet shops
  • dog and cat boarding establishments
  • zoos.

For further information and to report cruelty or an animal in distress in a commercial premises, see: 

To report organised animal cruelty

The RSPCA use the term organised animal cruelty to describe activities:

  • where animals are encouraged by their owners to fight each other
  • where animals such as dogs and cockerels are bred and sold for the purpose of fighting
  • where animals are chased and killed deliberately such as hare coursing and badger baiting.

Both the RSPCA and the Police may take action when these cases are reported.