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A Guide to Reporting Animal Cruelty in the UK

All the essential contact details and advice you need for reporting animal cruelty in the UK.

There are many agencies for reporting animal cruelty in the UK who unlike the RSPCA actually have legal powers to investigate, prosecute and intervene in matters of animal abuse. These include the Police, local authorities and DEFRA.

Most people mistakenly believe that the RSPCA in England or SSPCA in Scotland are the only agency legally responsible for investigating and prosecuting animal abuse. There is considerable confusion over what powers the RSPCA have. They have in fact none, but they have still become the default agency to go to as all the other agencies lack the time, inclination or the funds to do the job.

The U.K., Scotland and Northern Ireland all have different laws and procedures and within each country there are various authorities tasked with dealing with certain issues. Most of the confusion in the UK was caused when the government in its wisdom introduced the all-encompassing new Animal Welfare Act 2006, but failed to appoint anyone to officially enforce it.

Reporting animal cruelty in the UK
It is important to report animal cruelty whenever you come across it. Don’t leave it to someone else.

Who do you call?

Reporting animal cruelty in England& Wales

The Police, local authorities and the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), can all investigate and prosecute animal abuse dependent on the type of animal involved, but not necessarily a statutory duty to do so.

For farm animals, transport of livestock, slaughterhouses, etc contact:

DEFRA 03000 200 301 or 020 7238 6951 (England) 0300 303 8268 (Wales)

For all animals including wildlife crime:

Police on 101 or 999 if urgent. See also wildlife crime later in article.

OR

RSPCA 0300 1234 999

Depending on the circumstances an RSPCA Inspector might:

  • persuade or educate the person responsible for the animal to look after the animal properly
  • give them a care notice – stating what the person is failing to do and giving them a period of time to take action to improve the animal’s welfare. If they don’t follow a care notice properly owners run the risk of being charged with an offence and prosecuted.
  • start criminal prosecution proceedings by reporting the case to the the RSPCA legal department who will decide whether to take a private prosecution under section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act (POA) 1985.

The English government increased the penalties for animal cruelty in June 2021 to bring them more in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland. The maximum penalty is now 5 years imprisonment and/or £5,000 fine.

For pet shops, riding stables, zoos, animals in entertainment and companion animals:

Your local Council animal welfare inspector or environmental health department.

NOTE: If you contact a Police call centre they will usually automatically refer you to the RSPCA because in practice the English police generally feel they have no statutory duty (not forced by any law) to investigate. You can insist they take action if it is an emergency, but it can be hard work.

Scotland

Animal cruelty and welfare laws are enforced by the Police and Local Authority animal welfare inspectors and SSPCA Inspectors. The SSPCA are designated as a ‘Specialist Reporting Agency’, with similar powers to the police unlike in England. They report the facts of a case of cruelty to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (the equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service in England) who decide whether the evidence warrants a prosecution and is in the ‘public interest’.

Scottish SPCA 03000 999 999

OR

Local Authority Animal Welfare Department

OR

Police Tel: 101

Depending on the circumstances of the case an inspector might:

  • persuade or educate the person responsible for the animal to look after the animal properly
  • give them a care notice – stating what the person is failing to do and giving them a period of time to take action to improve the animal’s welfare. If they don’t follow a care notice properly they’re likely to be charged with an offence and prosecuted.
  • start criminal prosecution proceedings by reporting the case to the Procurator Fiscal

Penalties that can be imposed on offenders:

Serious neglect or cruelty, animal fighting or serious crimes to wildlife: up to 5 years imprisonment and unlimited fines.

Other penalties include fixed notice fines for failing in owner’s duty of care or abandonment and other less serious crimes.

The judge can also impose a Deprivation Order which removes the animal from the owners’ care or a Disqualification Order which stops the owner from owning or working  with animals for a specific period. They may also be added to an animal cruelty data base.


Northern Ireland

Local Authority Animal Welfare officers under the Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 2011 are responsible for investigation cruelty to companion animals. They work on a regional basis and basically work office hours with an out of hours contact number.

Report cruelty to companion animals

  • Belfast City Council 028-90270431
  • Eastern Region 028 90494567
  • Northern Region    028 25633134
  • Southern Region    028 37515800
  • Western Area    028 82256226

For welfare of Farm Animals & Pet Shops

Department of Agriculture (DARD) 0300 200 7840 office hours. Out of hours police or local vet.

Wildlife crime.

Police Tel: 101 or 999 in an emergency

The USPCA does not get involved in prosecutions but campaigns against major issues like puppy farming, dog fighting and tame deer hunts.

USPCA 028 3025 1000

reporting animal cruelty in the UK

More on Wildlife Crime

There are no other charities which take regular prosecutions under animal welfare and protection laws, but it is worth reporting incidents of wildlife crime to these:

The League against Cruel Sports

The charity has a useful online and telephone contact to help you report wildlife cruelty such as illegal hunting anonymously.

Animal Crimewatch 01483361108 or online Animal Crimewatch Report

Royal Society for Protection of birds (RSPB)

Wild Birds and the Law | Reporting Crimes Against Wild Birds – The RSPB. Use the online reporting form or call Investigations on 01767 680551 (England, Wales, NI) or 0131 3174100 (Scotland), or email crime@rspb.org.uk.


RSPCA HQ is on the move again.

The UK RSPCA headquarters is on the move again. The Society has been like a hermit crab in the past by discarding its shell every few decades when it got too big for it. But this time it is different. They are downsizing.

The UK RSPCA HQ is on the move again. The Society has been like a hermit crab in the past by discarding its shell every few decades when it got too big for it. But this time it is different. They are downsizing.

Their first headquarters which opened in 1869 was a magnificent five storey colonnade Victorian building at 105 Jermyn Street in the centre of London just metres from Piccadilly Circus & Trafalgar Square. I remember the building well when I worked for the RSPCA in London. It was a maze of offices, corridors and staircases with a creaky old lift and a musty atmosphere, but it was a friendly and cosy place.  

The old headquarters survived two world wars before moving to the countryside

The Society escapes to the countryside.

Having served as its base for 103 years the Society decided in 1973 to escape to the countryside and set up home in another grand old building in The Causeway, Horsham West Sussex, much to the regret of the staff and public at the time. This was especially so in regard to their well-known and invaluable night emergency service which had come to the rescue of thousands of trapped and injured animals throughout Greater London and given emergency treatment to the public’s pets for forty years. The building was sadly demolished after the sale.

There was also a backlash by certain sections of the public over the perceived cost and waste of money of their move. But in fairness the original one had passed its sell by date as a workable office.

The Horsham Headquarter building.

On the move again to a £16m building.

Fast forward two decades and the Society was on the move again. This time to a lavish 72,000 square foot purpose-built building in Southwater, not far from Horsham. Costing £16 million pounds it again attracted adverse publicity for the Society over the perceived wastage of money that some thought better spent on helping animals. Personally, when I first visited it seemed a little over the top with its huge open plan space and indoor gardens and waterfall. It was more like an airport terminal or TV studio.

The £16m purpose built HQ at Southwater with indoor gardens and waterfall.

And now two decades later the Society is on the move again. This time it is slightly different in that they are apparently downsizing. They are moving to smaller cheaper offices nearby. The Society admits they have not been using their present facilities to the full for a while and because of the Covid hiatus the staff want to follow the trend of working from home.

It does beg the question why such a costly big palace of a building was required in the first place, but hindsight is an intangible thing. Will this be the final move? Time will tell. One good thing to come out it will be the release of funds for more ‘activity’ to help more animals as they expect to raise millions from the sale. So, there should be no outcry this time.

Returning to its roots.

Part of the relocation and reorganisation is its partial return to its roots in London. Offices are being leased from another charity in November 2021 to provide a “Hub” which will act as a drop-in for staff to work and have discussions probably over many cups of coffee. This should be a truly touching case of history repeating itself as the RSPCA was founded in 1824 in a London Coffee House in St. Martin’s Lane with its founders dropping in to discuss its future.

Why not find out more about the old RSPCA headquarters and its emergency service in this book:

Book When cats Got Stuck Up Trees
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