Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

We have a policy against the use of animals in entertainment where 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 can help avoid unnecessary distress and suffering. Our advice will always include seeking alternative methods to animal use.

What is the law regarding animals used 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 the animal a suitable environment and diet, allowing the animal to behave normally, housing the animal with or apart from other animals (as appropriate), protecting the animal from pain, injury, suffering and disease, and meeting any other needs the animal 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.

Are there a lot of welfare problems in the industry?

Our experience has shown that welfare issues are common and most arise from a lack of planning. If Independent Animal Welfare Advisors are used, risks to animal welfare can be reduced or avoided.

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

We mean nearly every type of performance, event or show that uses live animals. This includes:

  • still photography
  • art exhibits
  • theatre
  • films and television
  • advertisements
  • 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 is a performing animal?

By 'performing animal' we mean any animal that is taken away from its usual home environment or social group or that is trained/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.

Whilst 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 and so our guidance can be applied to invertebrates like insects, spiders and molluscs.

Will following the RSPCA's 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 is 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 and think it's acceptable to disregard their needs or mimic what is 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 the RSPCA about my production?

Our Guidelines on the Welfare of Performing Animals are free to download. We are able to provide more specific advice on a case by case basis.

We can also provide guidance tailored to your production. Please call us on 0300 123 8787 to talk through your requirements.

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