The Animal Welfare Act 2006

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 (which came in to force in April 2007) overhauled the legal protection of vertebrate animals. It applies to actions taken on the land and all inland waters and estuaries in England and Wales.

The Act introduced the notion of species-specific legislation and combined over twenty pieces of existing legislation and leading case law. It primarily relates to animals that are owned or held captive, stating that animal owners have a positive duty of care “and outlaws neglecting to provide for their animals’ basic needs, such as access to adequate nutrition and veterinary care“. The Act details responsible animal ownership and the prevention of harm to animals by way of ‘unnecessary suffering.’

Is that relevant to ‘Protectors of the Wild’ and our aim of ‘Recognising, Recording, and Reporting’ wildlife crime?

It certainly is, yes.

In its ‘Wildlife Management Advice Note‘ (published in 2010 and revised in April 2019), Natural England says that “Although the Act focuses on domestic animals, it also applies to wild animals while they are being held captive, and can apply to certain wild animals when living free in the wild“. ‘

‘Held captive’ in this context means ‘in the control of’ or ‘under the protection of’ and includes when an animal is being held in snares and cage traps as well as badgers under the control of badger baiters and foxes that have been dug out and are under the control of huntsmen (as in the image above of the disgraced Avon Vale Hunt digging out a fox).

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the Act) is the principal law relating to animal welfare. The maximum sentence for offences (since the passing of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021) is 5 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Owners and keepers have a duty of care to their animals and must make sure they meet their needs:

  • for a suitable environment and 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


Anyone who does not provide for an animal’s welfare needs may also:

  • be banned from owning animals


The 2006 Act also sets out offences relating to animal cruelty and animal fighting.

Animal cruelty includes:

  • causing unnecessary suffering to an animal
  • mutilation
  • docking the tail of a dog except where permitted
  • poisoning an animal


The Animal Welfare Act 2006 only applies to vertebrate, non-human animals (e.g. mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish).

No. The primary piece of animal protection legislation in Scotland is the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. It is similar in format in and content to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 but key variations are as follows:

  • Part 1 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 contains detailed provisions concerning animal health and preventing the spread of disease.
  • Docking dogs’ tails was fully prohibited but in 2017 a revision (lobbied for by the ‘countryside’ sports industry) allowed tail docking in some ‘working dog’ breeds. 
  • It is an offence to fail to comply with an improvement notice (or ‘care notice’) under Section 25(7) of the Scottish Act, which is a helpful enforcement mechanism.
  • The Act contains a section prohibiting the keeping of certain animals, at domestic or other premises, for which subsequent specific Regulations can be made (s28).
  • Animal cruelty and welfare prosecutions in Scotland are handled by the Procurator Fiscal (the public prosecutor in Scotland) who will assess each case and instigate court proceedings if deemed appropriate. Investigations are mainly carried out by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who will then refer cases on; there is no private prosecution.


The Scottish government introduced the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill in 2019 to improve penalties and powers available to enforcement agencies and the courts.  The bill also introduces improved procedures for making permanent arrangements for animals taken into possession by the authorities in order to protect their welfare.

In 2021 Parliament passed the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act, which increased the maximum sentence for specific offences under the 2006 Act from six months to five years’ custody and made these either way offences, meaning they could be heard in magistrates’ courts or the Crown Court. It applies to England and Wales only.

On 10 May 2023, the Sentencing Council published “Updated sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty offences that reflect changes introduced by the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021″. The guidelines are for use in the Crown Court and came into force 01 July 2023.

The following offences were impacted by the change:

  • Causing unnecessary suffering (section 4, Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • Carrying out a non-exempted mutilation (section 5, Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • Docking the tail of a dog except where permitted (section 6(1) and 6(2), Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • Administering a poison to an animal (section 7, Animal Welfare Act 2006); and
  • Involvement in an animal fight (section 8, Animal Welfare Act 2006).


(The Sentencing Council was established by Parliament to be an independent body, but accountable to Parliament for its work which is scrutinised by the Justice Select Committee. Justice Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the Sentencing Council’s effectiveness and efficiency, for its use of public funds and for protecting its independence. Judicial Council members are appointed by the Lord Chief Justice with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor. Non-judicial council members are appointed by the Lord Chancellor with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice.)

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 sets out offences relating to cruelty and animal fighting. After the passing of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 the maximum sentence for these offences was raised to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

The new sentences became available for the courts to use from 29 June 2021 onwards.

Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 creates the offence of “unnecessary suffering”, which is split into two parts.

Subsection 1 criminalises acts or omissions that cause unnecessary suffering to a protected animal (‘protection’ here means ‘in the protection of’ as in ‘under the control of’ and not a rare or threatened species protected by legislation), the suffering of which the defendant knew, or reasonably ought to have known, would be likely. This covers situations where a person fails to prevent unnecessary suffering to an animal as well as specific actions that cause unnecessary suffering.

The Act says that:

4 (1) A person commits an offence if –

(a)  an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer

(b)  he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so,

(c)   the animal is a protected animal, and

(d)  the suffering is unnecessary.

Section 4 (2) is a ‘complicity offence’ – that is, an offence of helping or encouraging another individual to commit a crime. An offence is committed where a person responsible for an animal fails to take reasonable steps (in all the circumstances) to prevent another person (through that person’s act or failure to act) from causing unnecessary suffering to that animal.


Although causing an animal suffering is not explicitly prohibited under the Act, it is prohibited if that suffering is judged “unnecessary”.

How is that determined? A vague definition of “suffering” is provided in Section 62 of the Act, namely: ‘physical or mental suffering or related expressions” – which (as numerous test cases online discuss) is almost impossible to define exactly.

What in practice constitutes unnecessary suffering has to be determined by a Court using considerations listed in Section 4(3), namely whether:

  1. the suffering could have reasonably been avoided or reduced;
  2. the conduct which caused the suffering was in compliance with any relevant enactments or provisions of a license or codes of conduct (so otherwise lawful);
  3. the conduct which caused the suffering was for a legitimate purpose;
  4. the suffering was proportionate to the purpose of the conduct concerned;
  5. the conduct causing the suffering was (in all the circumstances) that of a reasonably competent and humane person.


A court will usually ask for expert evidence perhaps given by a veterinary surgeon or animal behaviorist to determine what level of suffering is ‘unnecessary’. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 ‘uneccessary suffering’ must be established beyond reasonable doubt for a prosecution to take place – a high threshold for prosecutors who need to prove that whatever was done by an individual went beyond causing ‘normal’ suffering and became ‘uneccessary’.

It’s clear this legislation continues to permit what might be termed necessary ‘suffering’ in law. How else, after all, could gamekeepers work and shooting estates run their businesses if suffering was not permitted at all? And of course how else would meat- and dairy-based food systems be allowed to continue causing so much pain and suffering if it wasn’t…

Section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 covers animal fighting (defined as “an occasion on which a protected animal is placed with an animal, or with a human, for the purpose of fighting, wrestling or baiting” – protected again here meaning ‘in the protection of’ making an individual ‘responsible’ and with a duty of care to the animal in their control).

Under Section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 a person

(1) commits an offence if he or she:

(a) causes an animal fight to take place, or attempts to do so;

(b) knowingly receives money for admission to an animal fight;

(c) knowingly publicises a proposed animal fight;

(d) provides information about an animal fight to another with the intention of enabling or encouraging attendance at the fight;

(e) makes or accepts a bet on the outcome of an animal fight or on the likelihood of anything occurring or not occurring in the course of an animal fight;

(f) takes part in an animal fight;

(g) has in his possession anything designed or adapted for use in connection with an animal fight with the intention of its being so used;

(h) keeps or trains an animal for use for in connection with an animal fight;

(i) keeps any premises for use for an animal fight.



(2) A person commits an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, he or she is present at an animal fight.


(3) A person commits an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, he or she:

(a) knowingly supplies a video recording of an animal fight,

(b) knowingly publishes a video recording of an animal fight,

(c) knowingly shows a video recording of an animal fight to another, or

(d) possesses a video recording of an animal fight, knowing it to be such a recording, with the intention of supplying it.

(Subsection 3 does not apply if the video was recorded outside Great Brittain, was recorded before the Act came into force, or was recorded to be used for a ‘programme service‘.)

Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 places a duty of care on people to “ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice”.

This means they must take positive steps to ensure they care for animals in their protection properly and in particular must provide for the five welfare needs, which are:

  • need for a suitable environment
  • need for a suitable diet
  • need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
  • need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
These points are similar to the ‘Five Freedoms’ which addresses both the mental and physical needs of animals:
  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst (all animals should have ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor).
  • Freedom from Discomfort (all animals should have shelter and a comfortable place to rest).
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease (all animals should receive proper medical care, including preventative care and rapid diagnosis and treatment for injuries or disease).
  • Freedom to Express Normal Behavior (all animals should have sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind).
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress (all animals should receive conditions and treatment that allow them to avoid mental suffering).

The familiar meaning of the word ‘protected’ is “a species of animal or plant which it is forbidden by law to harm or destroy” – eg ‘Hen Harriers are a protected species’. But the word has a more specific use in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and in a Protectors of the Wild context relates more to an animal being captive and ‘in the protection of’ whoever has control over that animal even temporarily..

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 says:

An animal is a “protected animal” for the purposes of this Act if—

(a) it is of a kind which is commonly domesticated in the British Islands,

(b) it is under the control of man whether on a permanent or temporary basis, or

(c) it is not living in a wild state.



The Act’s explanatory notes say that:

  • Animals of a kind commonly domesticated in the British Islands are to be “protected animals”, whether they can be said to be under the control of man or not. This ensures that, for example, stray dogs and feral cats are covered. Kinds of animals which are to be considered commonly domesticated in the British Islands are those whose collective behaviour, life cycle, or physiology has been altered as a result of their breeding and living conditions being under human control, in the British Islands, for multiple generations.
  • “Under control” is intended to be a broader expression than “captive animal”, which was used in an equivalent context in the Protection of Animals Act 1911 (which was replaced by the Animal Welfare Act 2006). The latter expression was interpreted narrowly in the courts. “Not living in a wild state” is intended to cover those animals which may have ceased to be under the control of man, and therefore do not fall within section 2(b), but are not yet living wild, including (though not limited to) animals which have escaped, for example from a zoo or circus.


In its ‘Wildlife Management Advice Note‘, Natural England expands on what ‘control’ means saying that:

‘Animals under the control of man’ applies to any wild animal if it is held captive or restrained, permanently or temporarily, by man’s actions. For example when held in an enclosure, pen or cage trap, during transportation, while caught in a net (including a mist net) or snare, or while held in the hand’.

  • This then includes animals trapped in cages or snares by gamekeepers on shooting estates and animals dug out and held (even if briefly) by terrier men and fox hunters.


Yes, particularly Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which prohibits ‘unnecessary suffering’.

In its ‘Wildlife Management Advice Note‘ (published in 2010 and revised in April 2019), Natural England says of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 that “Although the Act focuses on domestic animals, it also applies to wild animals while they are being held captive”.

The note specifically highlights the example of birds caught in cage traps (though it equally applies to eg snares), stating that “Under the Animal Welfare Act, leaving an animal in a cage trap without food, water or shelter for a period of time, so causing it to suffer unnecessarily, may be an offence, especially if the period of time it was left untended exceeded that of any relevant licence conditions or guidelines.”

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 does not apply to

  • animals ‘lawfully’ used in research facilities: (Section 58(1) states that ‘nothing in this act applies to anything lawfully done under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986)
  • animals involved in the ‘regular practice of fishing’ (even though fishing does of course bring a vertebrate animal – fish – ‘under the control’ of a person and involves suffering: any practice deemed ‘irregular’ though could bring the fish in question under the 2006 Act).
  • animals that are subject to ‘humane destruction’ (which should mean that the animal is either killed instantly or rendered insensible until death ensues, without pain, suffering or distress).

No. They have similar sections, but there is no overlap whatsoever in terms of jurisdiction or reciprocal enforcement powers etc.

The US’s Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was signed into law on August 24, 1966 and is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, teaching, testing, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. The Act is enforced by The United States Department of Agriculture, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Animal Care (an emergency response component providing national leadership on the safety and well-being of pets during disasters).

The Animal Welfare Act establishes requirements concerning the transportation, sale, and handling of certain animals and includes restrictions on the importation of dogs for purposes of resale, prohibitions on animal fighting ventures, and provisions intended to prevent the theft of personal pets.

Summary provisions of the AWA include:

  1. The animals covered by the Act include dogs, cats, primates and other mammals, but exclude birds, rats and mice.
  2. The individuals who must either obtain a permit to buy and sell listed animals or register for their use includes dealers of animals, exhibitors of animals, and research facilities that use listed animals, but, pet owners, agriculture use and retail pet stores are not under the control of the law.
  3. There are limitations/regulations on how an animal may enter the controlled chain of commerce, to eliminate the use of stolen animals.
  4. There are limitations/regulations on the environmental conditions under which the animals must be kept.
  5. Research facilities may purchase listed animals only from licensed dealers.
  6. Those who transport the listed animals must comply with published regulations governing the well-being of the animals.
  7. Research facilities must create an Animal Care Committees to review the use of animals by the facility and inspect the animal housing facilities.
  8. Research facilities must abide by legal restrictions on the imposition of pain during research.
  9. Research facilities must comply with extensive regulations concerning the housing and care of animals used in research.
  10. In a separate provision, it is made illegal for any person to knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal in any animal fighting venture to which any animal was moved in interstate or foreign commerce.


Wildlife crime is defined as any action which contravenes current legislation governing the protection of the UK’s wild flora and fauna, including species traded in the UK.

Note that wildlife crime does NOT include:

  • Incidents involving domestic or companion animals such as dogs (other than dogs being used to hunt mammals), cats, rabbits, domesticated birds, etc.

  • Wild animals that have been involved (killed or injured etc) in road traffic accidents.

Road accidents with wild animals do not need to be reported to the police, but note that domestic animals (as well as goats, horses, cattle, asses, mules, sheep and pigs) come within the remit of the Road Traffic Act. If you have a road accident involving these animals you are required by law to report it to the police. If the wild animal is so badly injured in a road accident that there is no chance of recovery or the animal can not be returned to the wild then he or she may be euthanised, providing there is no appropriate long-term captive or semi-captive accommodation or when treatment would involve undue suffering or distress.

If we come across a wildlife crime scene or a dead bird/object that may be related to a wildlife crime every piece of information is – or might be – important, but it needs to be recorded properly and accurately for the authorities to have a chance of prosecuting an offender.

  • Before we do anything else it is very important that we do NOT approach anyone we suspect of committing a crime – they may be violent and/or aggressive. This is especially true of badger baiters and hare coursers who are typically extremely violent. This must be a first priority!
What do we need to record?
  • What we can see happening – what sort of crime is being committed
  • Are any firearms involved, could we or the public be in danger?
  • The exact location. Most smartphones have map apps or download the free What3Words app. If in open countryside look for obvious landmarks or fence lines, a tall or isolated tree, a wind turbine, any streams or brooks etc. Think about what would you need to re find a remote location.
  • It is important to record if at all possible whether we are on or near public land as this will determine the type of police response.
  • Never put ourselves in danger, but can we see who is involved and what they look like (e.g. number of people, their gender(s), age(s), the clothing worn, tools being carried)? Can we hear them – if so what are they saying, are they using any names etc?
  • If any dogs are involved how many are there, what colour are they, do we know what breed they are (even information like ‘terriers’ or ‘lurcher-types’ can be very useful).
  • The make, colour and registration number of any vehicle (we can take photos of a car if we think it is being used or might be used to commit a crime). Does it have any obvious dents, branding or markings, spotlights, bullbars etc.



  • Do NOT disturb the scene by walking around unnecessarily – small pieces of evidence (cigarette ends, footprints, the marks left by a spade etc) may be lost or trampled into the mud or grass.
  • If photographing an object do try to use eg a coin or a notebook/field guide for scale – providing it won’t disturb the crime scene.
  • If in the countryside take wide angle photographs of any landmarks (a tree, a distinctive fenceline, a hill) that might help officers relocate the crime scene. DO NOT mark a site with eg a white plastic bag though. Being able to see a marker from a distance might sound like a good idea, but it will also alert an offender that someone has been at the site: they may go back and remove the evidence.
  • Do NOT move any items at the scene – the exception being if they are likely to disappear before the police arrive when we can collect them as evidence.
  • Do NOT touch any dead birds or animals with bare hands. They may be poisoned baits or victims of poisoning. Many poisons (eg Carbofuran) are extremely dangerous in even very small amounts and can be absorbed through the skin.
  • Do NOT do anything illegal ourselves – that might mean our evidence is not admissible.
 If we see a wildlife crime taking place (or someone is at risk of getting injured or is being threatened) call 999 immediately.
They will want to know what we can see happening:
  • What sort of crime is being committed
  • Are any firearms involved
  • Could we or the public be in danger
  • Do we have photos or video footage which may be used as evidence
  • Tell whoever you REPORT the crime to exactly what you have RECORDED as described in the section above.
To report a historic crime – that is, a crime that is no longer taking place – use 101 or a local organisation instead.
  • If calling the police ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and make sure to get an Incident Report number.
  • Please always follow any advice given and – if they are not available – insist that a Wildlife Crime Officer is made aware of your report.
  •  Our options are wider if the event is over, and it may be preferable to talk first to a charity or NGO to get advice. Crimestoppers (an independent charity) can be contacted in complete confidence on 0800 555 111
  • When thinking about reporting a crime it’s worth noting that only the police have statutory powers to make an arrest. RSPCA and RSPB investigation officers work with the police for successful prosecutions.
Reporting a wildlife crime (or even a suspected wildlife crime) is important for two reasons.
  • If the event is still happening it may enable the authorities to catch the criminals ‘in the act’ (which means a higher chance of prosecution),
  • and if the event is over a report can still help to build up a more accurate picture of what might be happening in a specific location or across the country as a whole.
Our help is always welcomed
  • Whoever we decide to contact we have been assured that our help is welcomed and that if we’re in any doubt that what we’re seeing is a  crime we should report it anyway. Remember, if what we see ‘feels’ wrong, it probably is!
  • Even if we’re not sure about what we’re seeing, we can take a photograph and email it to the police or an investigations officer – they are trained to quickly recognise for example when a snare is illegally placed, whether a trap is being used illegally, or whether a crime is being committed or not.
  • We may help stop or solve future crimes by helping build up a pattern of behaviour in an area.

Have you ever wondered what UK law says about hunting with dogs, shooting, or collecting bird eggs? Or what protection foxes, badgers, bats, and birds of prey have? Whether a gamekeeper is using a snare, spring trap, or a cage trap legally? Wanted to know more about operating drones, using airguns, or driving quad bikes legally? What the different forms of trespass are, what constitutes assault, or what we should do if we’re arrested?

And have you ever been unimpressed with having to search hunting and shooting websites to find some of the information you need?

Us too! Which is why we have developed ‘Protectors of the Wild‘ and laid out the information we need in over thirty simple, mobile-friendly pages just like this one.

Protectors of the Wild‘ is a free resource to help us all become ‘eyes in the field’ by learning how to recognise, record, and report wildlife crime and wildlife persecution.

After all, the more we know, the more any potential criminal will have to be looking over their shoulder wondering if we know enough to Recognise, Record, and Report what they’re up to.

And the more we can all do to help protect the wild.

Have you ever wondered what UK law says about hunting with dogs, shooting, or collecting bird eggs? Or what protection foxes, badgers, bats, and birds of prey have? Whether a gamekeeper is using a snare, spring trap, or a cage trap legally? Wanted to know more about operating drones, using airguns, or driving quad bikes legally? What the different forms of trespass are, what constitutes assault or harassment, or what we should do if we’re stopped and searched or even arrested?

And have you ever been unimpressed with having to search hunting and shooting websites to find some of the information you need?

Us too! Which is why we have developed ‘Protectors of the Wild‘ and laid out the information we need in forty-one simple, mobile-friendly pages and over 500 FAQs just like this one.

Protectors of the Wild‘ is a free resource with two aims: to help us all become ‘eyes in the field’ by learning how to recognise, record, and report wildlife crime and wildlife persecution; and to provide a ‘quick guide’ to anyone interacting with hunts, hunt supporters, or the police.

After all, the more we know, the more any potential criminal will have to be looking over their shoulder wondering if we know enough to Recognise, Record, and Report what they’re up to, and the more we know our rights the better we can protect ourselves.

And the more we can all do to help protect the wild.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit currently has seven priority offences for wildlife crime.

Badger persecution

It is illegal to interfere with or block a badger’s home or ‘sett’. Badger baiting is a centuries-old now illegal blood sport, where small dogs such as terriers or lurchers seek badgers out of their setts before fighting and killing them.

Bat persecution

Bats and their homes are legally protected, so disturbing or removing them is an offence. If bats roost in your roof, you need to obtain a special ‘bat mitigation licence’ from Natural England to be allowed to disturb them. They are hugely important to our ecosystem.

Trade of endangered species

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) sets out which endangered animals and plants have protected status. It is illegal to remove any of them from their natural habitat, possess, or sell them. Currently, the top priorities are European eels, birds of prey, ivory, medicinal and health products, reptiles, rhino horns, and timber.

Freshwater pearl mussel offences

These Endangered mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) are only found in rivers in Scotland and small parts of England. They can live for more than 130 years but are extremely sensitive to water pollution and have been illegally farmed for years. It is illegal to damage or destroy their habitat or to take, injure or kill them.


Fox, deer, and hare hunting are all illegal under the Hunting Act 2004. Poaching offences also cover illegal fishing – when anglers do not obtain a licence or remove protected fish from lakes and rivers without returning them.

Raptor persecution

Birds of prey are often targeted on shooting estates. Their eggs are also traded illegally. It is an offence to target, poison, or kill them, with a particular focus on Golden Sagles, Goshawks, Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Red Kites, and White-tailed Eagles. Disturbing or taking their eggs or chicks is also illegal.

Cyber-enabled wildlife crime

Social media is often used to promote wildlife crime and recruit people to take part in it. Endangered plants and animals are also traded illegally online.

  • Punishment must fit the crime. Conditional discharges and paltry fines are not a disincentive for criminals.

A common complaint is that even if wildlife criminals are brought to court the fines or sentences they get are pathetic and not a disincentive. In most cases judges are giving out the penalties they are allowed to under the law. Changes can be made though. In 2022 the maximum sentence for ‘causing uneccesary suffering’ went from six months to five years. That was the result of targeted public pressure and campaigning. We need to identify where changes should be made and push hard for them.


  • Wildlife crime must be notifiable and statistics accurately compiled so that resources can be properly targeted.

Police forces are required by law to inform the Home Office of any notifiable offences, which then uses the reports to compile the crime statistics known as ‘recorded crime’. Currently, wildlife crimes are not ‘notifiable’ though (and wildlife crime involving firearms are also not recorded as firearms offences by the Police).  Without them being notifiable, no one knows how many wildlife crimes are being committed across the UK and where the hotspots are (though ‘grouse moors’ is one obvious response). As we have stated many times on this website, law and legislative enforcement is hugely underfunded and under-resourced. Some of this has undoubtedly been through political choice, but if we at least know which crimes are being committed and where, the resources that are available can be placed where they are needed most.


  • There must be changes to make it far easier for all of us to play our part in ‘Recognising, Reporting, Recording’ wildlife cime.

As even a quick glance at the Protectors pages makes clear, laws protecting wildlife are hard to understand. Major pieces of legislation like the Hunting Act 2004  and other laws are riddled with exemptions which strongly favour the hunting, shooting, and agricultural industries. Some date from a century or more ago and don’t reflect the modern world. These need to be updated. While there has undoubtedly been efforts made by successive governmants to use ‘plain english’ to explain legislation, any government wanting to tackle wildlife crime needs to make understanding what is and what isn’t a crime far more easily understood and put resources into a reporting system that the public feel confident using. Crucially, the public need to be sure that if they do report a crime it will be acted upon.


  • We have to protect the environment and wildlife properly.

Laws protecting wildlife and the environment need to be revised to reflect the 21st century and the biodiversity and climate crises we are in. Animals (and plants) are not an add-on or a ‘nice to have’ – they have shaped the systems that life depends on, and our laws need to reflect how critically important they are.


If you’d like to support just one legislative change, Protect the Wild has launched ‘The Hunting of Mammals Bill: A Proper Ban on Hunting‘ – please sign our petition calling for a proper ban on hunting with dogs.

We would like Protectors of the Wild to be the ‘go to’ free resource, packed with the kind of information that really does help all of us become ‘eyes in the field. But we can’t possibly think of every question that might need answering or every situation someone might find themselves in! And while the information in these pages is largely taken from Government online advice and was compiled in 2023 (and constantlyy updated), perhaps we’ve missed something out.

If you could provide us with legal advice get in touch. Or if you find a mistake or a gap please let us know. That way we can continually improve Protectors of the Wild – for the benefit of animals and all of us. Thanks.

‘Protectors of the Wild’ is a project of Protect the Wild. We have a dedicated email address for anyone wishing to get in touch with a specific Protectors query or with additional information etc. Please use the form on our Contact Protectors page or email Thank you.

Much of the information we give in these pages is very technical or to do with legislation which can be revised without much notice. While we have worked very hard on these pages and we take keeping our information accurate and up-to-date very seriously, Protect the Wild are not legal professionals. Just to make sure no-one thinks we’re offering professional legal advice, we feel obliged to include the following disclaimer on every page.

  • Please think of the ‘Protectors of the Wild’ pages as a ‘first stop’ before seeking legal advice. We provide detailed information but not professional advice. The information provided by Protect the Wild should NOT be considered or relied on as legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. Any of the material on our website may be out of date at any given time, and we are under no legal obligation to update such material. While we update and revise as often as we can, Protect the Wild assumes no responsibility for the accuracy and correctness of any information, or for any consequences of relying on it. Please do not act or refrain from acting upon this information without seeking professional legal advice.