Frequently Asked Questions

We believe all animals should be treated with kindness, so if you're thinking of using animals in a production, there are some important things to think about to ensure they stay healthy and happy. 

Our experience has shown that welfare issues in the industry are common, and most arise from a lack of planning. These are some of the questions we're most often asked about performing animals and their welfare. 

What is a performing animal?

By 'performing animal', we mean any animal that's taken away from its usual home environment or social group or that's trained or set up to behave in a particular way for a production. This can be anything from simply sitting in one place to performing a complex sequence of behaviours.

While we focus on vertebrate animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) that are covered by animal welfare legislation, we believe all animals should be treated with kindness, so our guidance can also be applied to invertebrates such as insects, spiders and molluscs.

What sort of productions are covered by the RSPCA's guidelines?

Our guidelines cover nearly every type of performance, event or show that uses live animals, including:

  • Films and TV
  • Adverts
  • Still photography
  • Art exhibits
  • Theatre
  • Live events and displays
  • Webcasts
  • Music videos
  • Corporate training and marketing videos

We don't mean fly-on-the-wall documentaries, bona fide agricultural shows, sporting events and/or military and police activities.

What's the law on using animals in productions?

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which applies in England and Wales, those responsible for an animal have a duty of care to provide for the animal's needs.

Providing for the needs of an animal includes giving them a suitable environment and diet, allowing them to behave normally, housing them with or apart from other animals (as appropriate), protecting them from pain, injury, suffering and disease, and meeting any other needs they may have.

There are a number of other regulations that may be relevant to the use of animals in productions, such as the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937 and the Performing Animal (Regulation) Act 1925.

Read our guidelines to find out more.

What's our position on the use of performing animals?

We're against the use of animals in entertainment if distress or suffering is caused or is likely to be caused. More generally, we don't endorse the use of animals in any form of entertainment, but if approached we will offer advice that promotes good welfare practice and keeps performing animals healthy and happy. We'll always include suggestions on alternatives to animal use.

Using Independent Animal Welfare Advisors can reduce or avoid risks to animal welfare.

Will following our advice interfere with the artistic/creative content of my production?

Our guidance doesn't intend to affect the artistic content of productions and doesn't cover the ethics of animal portrayal. It's intended solely to protect the welfare of animals used.

That said, if animals are portrayed in a demeaning way or in a manner that encourages inappropriate care, we're worried this could increase the number of people who see them as disposable property, think it's acceptable to disregard their needs or mimic what's shown. Anyone using animals in a production should also be aware that showing animals in a certain light may stimulate demand for them as pets.

How much will it cost to get advice from us about my production?

Our Guidance on the Welfare of Performing Animals is free to download. We're also able to provide more specific advice on a case-by-case basis and provide guidance tailored to your production. Please call us on 0300 123 8787 to talk through your requirements.

If you have a question not covered here, again, please call us on 0300 123 8787, advice lines are open weekdays, 9am to 5pm.