Always improving legislation
We are always looking to improve animal welfare law in Britain, the European Union (EU) and the rest of the world through our campaigning and political work.
The RSPCA has been involved in the passing of most of the law relating to animals that has been passed over the last 185 years.
Groundbreaking animal welfare law
The most groundbreaking piece of legislation in our history has been the passing of the Animal Welfare Act in 2006. The Act brought together and updated all the main animal legislation that had existed since the 1911 Protection of Animals Act.
The Animal Welfare Act updates the current offences of cruelty and fighting of animals, but crucially it also introduces the welfare offence. This requires the owners (and those responsible for) of animals to take reasonable steps to ensure their animal’s welfare needs are met.
You can find out further information on what the Act means for you on our page - Animal Welfare Act.
You can also read about about how the Act went through Parliament in our overview below.
Overview: Animal Welfare Act 2006 (PDF 19.7KB)
Fifteen years of progress
Before the Animal Welfare Act was passed, we reviewed the animal welfare law that had been passed both in the UK and in Europe to show the progress that had been made since 1990.
One of the most important pieces of legislation in this period was EU Council Directive 98/58/EC, concerning the protection of farm animals.
This Directive was implemented in this country in 2000, through the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations and for the first time established the principle of a 'duty of care' for farm animals. This ‘duty of care’ and the idea of the ‘five freedoms’ went on to form the welfare offence in the Animal Welfare Act.
You can see the changes that this Directive made as well as those made to the areas of live animal transportation, dangerous dogs, wildlife, animals and the testing of cosmetics on animals by downloading the review below.
Animal Welfare Legislation:
15 Years of Progress (PDF 5.31MB)
The RSPCA's Political Animal website has an interactive timeline called '20 years of animal welfare' where you can find details on animal welfare legislation made by the Houses of Parliament from 1990 to 2010.