Case summary: R (on the application of Patterson) v. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [2013] EWHC 4531 (Admin)

guinea pigs

What were the facts?

In March 2011, the first appellant, Mr Patterson, was convicted of participating in a blood sport, an offence under s.8A Animal Welfare Act 2006 (“AWA”). He was disqualified from keeping animals pursuant to s.34(2) AWA and transferred the ownership of all his animals to his wife, Mrs Patterson (the second appellant), with whom he co-habited.

In May 2011, an RSPCA inspector visited the Pattersons’ home and found a number of animals, including dogs, birds, rabbits and guinea pigs, suffering or being kept in an environment that would cause suffering. After a second visit in December 2011, animals were still found to be in the same conditions and charges were brought against the appellants. Mr Patterson was convicted under s.34(9) AWA for breaching the disqualification order made against him, finding that he had been able to participate, control or had been able to influence the way in which animals were kept. Additionally, Mrs Patterson was convicted of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the breach. They were also jointly convicted on four counts of animal cruelty under s.4 AWA.

Both Mr and Mrs Patterson appealed against their convictions.

What was the applicable law?

Section 4 AWA provides:

“A person commits an offence if —

(a)     he is responsible for an animal,

(b)     an act or failure to act of another person causes the animal to suffer,

(c)     he permitted that to happen or failed to take such steps (whether by way of supervising the other person or otherwise) as were reasonable in all the circumstances to prevent that happening; and

(d)     the suffering is unnecessary.”

Section 9(2) AWA provides that an animal’s needs include the need for a suitable environment and diet, the ability to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, to be housed with or separate to other animals, and to be protected from pain, suffering, injury or disease.

s.34(2)(d) AWA prevents the disqualified person “from being party to an arrangement under which he is entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept”. Under s.34(9) AWA, a person who breaches a disqualification order commits an offence.

What were the arguments for the appellants?

The appellants argued the magistrates had incorrectly applied the law under s.34(2)(d). They argued it is not sufficient to show a disqualified person would be able to control or influence the keeping of animals, but instead that person has to be entitled to control or influence the keeping of animals. Since ownership of the animals had passed to Mrs Patterson, Mr Patterson was no longer entitled to control or influence their keeping. Whilst any extended absence of Mrs Patterson might have led to the necessary inference that Mr Patterson was entitled to control of the animals, there was no evidence to suggest such an absence, nor of Mr Patterson taking the opportunity to care for the animals.

What were the arguments for the respondent?

The RSPCA argued that, since there were animals living both inside and outside the Pattersons’ house and Mrs Patterson was not present at all times, in practice Mr Patterson was either participating in the care of these animals or was entitled to do so within the meaning of s.34(2)(d) AWA. He, therefore, was in breach of the disqualification order and committed an offence under s.34(9) AWA. Since Mrs Patterson knew of the disqualification order against her husband she could be said to be aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the breach.

What did the court decide?

The court allowed the appellants’ appeal to the extent that Mr Patterson did not breach the disqualification order against him. Being a criminal prosecution, Blake J held “the inference must not only be one that can be drawn from the evidence but [it must be] the only sensible inference”. Mrs Patterson might have left the house on occasions, but it:

“does not necessarily follow that [Mr Patterson] has used the opportunity to [control the animals] and if he has not done so, it is difficult to see what evidence there was that he was entitled to do so.

[…] The justices did not direct their minds to the question of whether there was an entitlement to care for or control the animals, and secondly, do not set out with any particularity why the facts in this case were so strong as to exclude any other inference but that Mr Patterson had…done things that he knew he was prohibited from doing.”

Since Mr Patterson was not responsible for the animals, he was also acquitted of the four counts of animal cruelty against him.

Inevitably, this also meant allowing Mrs Patterson’s appeal against her conviction for aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the breach. However, the four counts of animal cruelty were upheld against her as, unlike Mr Patterson, she was found to be responsible for the animals under s.4 AWA.

Written by Abigail Scott.

Case Summary: RSPCA v Mccormick and others [2016] EWHC 928 (Admin)

deerWhat were the facts?

Between 2012 and 2014, the respondents (Mr Mccormick and four others known collectively as the “Devon Destroyers”) allegedly went into the countryside at night with one or more lurcher-type dogs. Their purpose was to seek out wild animals, including deer, foxes and badgers, which they allowed their dogs to pursue, attack and kill. Inevitably, fighting between the dog(s) and the pursued animals would occur, and on occasions the dog(s) themselves suffered injury.

What was the applicable law?

The relevant legislation in this case was s.8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (“the 2006 Act”). In particular, s.8(1)(a) provides that it is an offence to cause an animal fight to take place, or attempt to do so. An “animal fight” is defined by s.8(7) 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”.

Consideration was also given by the court to the Hunting Act 2004. The court was keen to ensure the Acts’ differing purposes were not confused with one another, particularly in light of the much harsher sentencing regime permitted by the 2006 Act.

What were the arguments for the appellant?

The appellant, the RSPCA, argued that the act of allowing a dog or dogs to pursue, fight and kill a wild animal constituted an “animal fight” for the purposes of s.8(7) of the 2006 Act. They argued that the lower court had wrongly narrowed the application of s.8(7) by introducing a requirement that both the protected animal (the dog(s)) and any animal with which they were placed (the wild animal) must not be free to escape. They disagreed that the animals’ escape must be restricted or controlled by the participating individuals.

What were the arguments for the respondents?

The respondents argued that their acts did not fall within the criteria required for “animal fighting” within the 2006 Act. They argued that to hold the act of a protected animal fighting with its quarry during the process of hunting as an “animal fight” would conflict with Parliament’s intention in enacting the Hunting Act 2004. They argued that the purpose of s.8(7) of the 2006 Act was to outlaw intentional fights, wrestling or baiting which arose in a contrived and/or artificial setting.

What did the court decide?

The court dismissed the RSPCA’s appeal.

The court disagreed that the lower court had erred in its interpretation of s.8(7) of the 2006 Act, and agreed that the term “placed with” should be given its ordinary meaning. An animal will only be “placed with” another animal for the purpose of fighting under s.8(7) where two requirements are satisfied: first, the requirement of physical proximity between the animals, meaning both had to be immediately present without a hunt or chase; and second, the requirement of control such that the other animal cannot escape. This, the court held, meant that the fight could not “be the by-product of a chance meeting” and instead it must be “a contrived or artificial creation specifically for the purpose of a fight during which, on the assumed facts, the other animal has no natural means of escape” (para.31).

Furthermore, the court held that this interpretation avoided the “very odd anomaly” which would have occurred if hunting activities outlawed by the Hunting Act 2004 (which are punishable only by financial penalties) were also prosecutable under the 2006 Act and therefore punishable by imprisonment for up to six months and/or disqualification from keeping animals for life.

Written by Abigail Scott.

Day of Action: Animals Are Not Freight – 29th August 2016

CIWF_AANF_LOGO_RGB_MAIN_300DPIShow your support for ending long distance transportation of live animals by getting involved in the Animals Are Not Freight Day of Action on Monday 29th August 2016.

Animals Are Not Freight ( is encouraging individuals and organisations to get behind the movement to end this controversial practice, which sees millions of animals transported in inhumane and dangerous conditions every year.

The 29th August has been chosen since it marks the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies of the animal transportation trade: the loss of the livestock vessel, MV Uniceb, and the death of over 67,000 sheep it carried on board.

ALAW is taking action on the 29th August with an online article, written by volunteer Natalie Harney, which considers the key legal issues affecting the UK and EU’s involvement with the long distance transportation trade. This online article can be found below:

Read ALAW’s online article here – part of the Animals Are Not Freight Day of Action.

Events, articles and videos organised by other groups for the Day of Action can be viewed on the Animals Are Not Freight website.

Review: Steven M. Wise’s Talk at Doughty Street Chambers

By Randi Milgram

On June 13 2016, ALAW was honored to host Steven M. Wise at the Doughty Street Chambers. A professor of animal rights at several U.S. law schools and an esteemed author on the subject, Mr. Wise is also the founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, the only civil rights organisation dedicated to the procurement of legal rights for nonhuman species. Mr. Wise spoke to the group about the Project’s steadfast efforts to affect change in the laws regarding personhood, efforts that form the subject of a new documentary, “Unlocking the Cage”. Attendees were fortunate to see footage from this film, which UK residents can currently watch on BBC iPlayer.

steve wiseAs Mr. Wise explained, the Nonhuman Rights Project began their tireless efforts in New York, fighting for recognition of legal personhood for chimpanzees. Every step in the process required extensive research and difficult decision-making to ensure that their cases had the greatest chance of success. From the venue to the animals chosen to the specific law to be applied, all of the Project’s actions had to be unassailable in order to make progress in this long struggle. Mr. Wise informed the crowd that after much research, they chose the procedural remedy of habeus corpus as the most compelling means by which to make their case. Although the legal battle has been long and difficult and will continue to be, definite strides have been made. Mr. Wise’s persuasive words left the enthusiastic crowd inspired, optimistic, and eager to see what happens next.

If you are interested in assisting in similar efforts toward nonhuman personhood in the UK, please contact Paula Sparks at

ALAW Animal Law Guide to the Legal Implications of Brexit

In light of last week’s referendum decision to leave the EU, we have put together a short guide to the legal implications of exiting the EU.

Animal Law after Brexit

It is important to emphasise that the position at the present time is that the UK is still a full member of the EU, and there is currently very little clarity about when and how the UK’s legal relationship with the EU will change.  There appear to be significant differences between the leading campaigners on the ‘Leave’ side about what the UK’s future outside the EU should look like.  It also remains to be seen what will be the terms of any ‘association agreement’ deal made between the EU and UK.  It may take a considerable period of time (possibly years) for these things to become clear.

Against the background of this uncertainty, it is impossible to know what the implications of ‘Brexit’ for animal welfare will be.  It is likely that there will be some impacts but that they will come about gradually in the years and decades after the UK has left the EU and may be able to adopt different rules and standards in some areas of economic activity.

EU Laws

EU legislation and other measures each take one of the following forms:

Treaties are the EU’s highest form of law.  Of particular importance in the animal welfare context are the ‘free movement’ provisions of the Treaties, which have been given a wide interpretation by the EU Courts.  In broad terms, the Treaty provisions on the free movement of goods require Member States to allow free access to goods that come from, or have already been admitted to the market in, another Member State.

Regulations bind all EU Member States without the need for national implementation. This means that on the date when an EU Regulation comes into force, it is automatically part of the law of each of the Member States.  Although that occurs without the Member State making any implementing domestic (i.e. national law) legislation, Member States will in many cases still make some implementing legislation for reasons of practicality connected with the way that the Member State’s legislation operates, or to address matters of detail such as the precise procedures that will be used for carrying out the Regulation’s requirements.

Directives do not automatically become part of the Member States’ laws.  Member States are obliged to implement a Directive by making domestic  legislation that ensures that the results required by the Directive are achieved. Such domestic legislation is part of the Member State’s law in the same way as any other domestic legislation.

There are also Decisions (binding on the national states to whom they are addressed) and Recommendations (non-binding opinions). Decisions and Recommendations typically deal with individual cases or matters of detail.

EU legislation affecting animal welfare will generally be either a Treaty provision, a Regulation or a Directive.

There is also case-law consisting of the judgments of the EU Courts (the Court of Justice of the European Union and the General Court).


The effect of a decision to leave the EU

Most experts agree that in order to give effect to the decision to leave the EU, the UK Parliament would have to repeal (or at least very substantially amend) the European Communities Act 1972 (which gives supremacy to EU law in the UK) and, at the EU level, it would have to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The UK would invoke Article 50 by giving formal notice to the EU that the UK wished to cease to be a member.  This notification would trigger the start of a 2 year period in which that Member State would seek to negotiate with the rest of the EU the terms of its departure.

So, what will happen to UK animal welfare laws which are derived from EU legislation?

The process of withdrawing from the EU will not be immediate and in the meantime the legal position is unchanged. Therefore, there will be no immediate change in the laws applicable in the UK which affect animal welfare. This includes both UK legislation (which may be English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish legislation) implementing Directives, and Regulations (which, as noted above, are part of UK law without any need for implementing domestic legislation).

The formal position once the UK leaves the EU will be as follows:

Domestic legislation implementing Regulations and Directives would continue to have effect unless and until they are repealed by new domestic legislation.

EU Regulations and other decisions which are binding directly without the need for domestic implementing legislation will no longer have a binding effect on the UK after its withdrawal, unless Parliament legislates to provide that Regulations made prior to the date of the UK leaving the EU will continue to be part of UK law unless and until they are expressly or impliedly repealed by new domestic legislation.

Given the vast amount of UK legislation that originates from the EU, it is very likely that the UK Parliament would, for reasons of practicality, pass legislation providing that the UK’s departure from the EU would have no immediate effect on the applicability within the UK of existing EU legislation. An especially complex and controversial issue might be the extent to which matters which are currently determined at EU level will be reserved to the UK Parliament, rather than being legislated for separately in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  At present the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly in particular have very broad competence over areas that are relevant to animal welfare, but in practice EU law requirements ensure that legislation in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK are very similar in areas such as farm animal welfare.

It is possible that the UK and/or devolved governments may decide to review all EU-derived laws to decide which ones to keep and which ones should be amended or repealed, but such a process would probably take place over a long period (e.g. 5 years) because of how large an undertaking this would be.  Policy areas would probably be tackled in sequence (e.g. transport, environmental protection, farming, etc.).

At this stage, no one knows what approach will be taken for ensuring continuity in legal requirements following the UK’s formal departure from the EU, but it is very likely that the pre-existing law will simply be ‘carried over’ so that there is no hiatus in regulation.


Trade laws which impact on animal welfare

It is possible that Regulations made by the EU which ban the importation by Member States of animal products (such as the ban on seal products (see [1]) and cat and dog fur) would no longer have effect in the UK.  The UK may therefore be free to import these products again unless legislation is passed banning the importation of these products. This would be a policy decision for the UK Parliament and Government.

Conversely, the UK may be free to impose a ban on certain products from Member States within the EU. Currently, this is generally not possible as such a restriction would probably be regarded by EU law as a ‘measure having equivalent effect to a quantitative restriction’ on goods from other Member States, and would therefore be regarded as being in conflict with the principle of freedom of movement of goods contained within Article 34 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’).

If the UK is no longer bound by the free movement of goods, then this may enable the UK to impose a ban on the importation of certain animal products (such as foie gras) from Member States within the EU, as well as those countries outside it, on grounds of public morality, where animal welfare concerns arise. It is important to note, however, that such restrictions may breach the terms of any ‘association agreement’ that is now made between the UK and the EU, or may breach World Trade Organisation rules or the provisions of any trade agreements that may now be made between the UK and other countries (e.g. Canada, USA, Australia, China, etc.). The WTO has a formal dispute resolution system for adjudicating on disputes between States. Trade agreements generally provide for dispute resolution mechanisms by which the contracting States may bring disputes to arbitration proceedings. Some agreements may provide for businesses to bring disputes to arbitration.

The UK civil service currently lacks expertise in negotiating trade agreements and dealing with trade disputes, since these things are currently dealt with at the EU level.  It remains to be seen how willing the UK will be to impose restrictions for animal protection reasons, in circumstances where the restrictions may trigger a dispute.


What does this mean for animal welfare?

ALAW recognises the inevitable questions: what will Brexit mean for animal welfare and how do we ensure that laws protecting animals remain as tough – if not tougher – once the UK leaves the EU.

We are organising a symposium in July to address these crucial issues. We will draw upon the skills of experts in EU law and leaders in the field of animal welfare to create an opportunity for NGO’s and practitioners to come together and discuss the challenges and opportunities that Brexit creates for animal protection.

Please email to register your interest for this event.


[1] Regulation (EC) No. 1007/2009 of the European Parliament and the EC Council of 16 September 2009), together with an implementing regulation setting out exceptions to the ban (the “EU Seal Regime”) prohibiting the import and placing on the market of seal products, with certain exceptions and Regulation No 1523/2007 on the ban of dog and cat fur.


This guide has been produced by A-LAW, a charity funded entirely by donations and membership subscriptions –


Registered Office ALAW, Emstrey House (North), Shrewsbury Business Park, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY2 6LG. A company limited by guarantee (No 5307802 – England). Registered Charity 113462

University of Winchester launches new Centre for Animal Welfare

Centre-for-Animal-Welfare-The University of Winchester has opened a new Centre for Animal Welfare (CAW) which will undertake research, teaching and public engagement in the field of animal welfare.

An official opening of the Centre will take place on Saturday 21st May at the University’s West Downs campus. Entry is free, but attendees must register in advance. Click here to book now.

The University already offers a BA (Hons) Animal Welfare and Society undergraduate degree course, alongside a MSc Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law postgraduate course. For more information on these courses and the Centre generally, please click here.


Reviewing the 2016 Public Interest Environmental Law conference

IMG_4693In April, ALAW Student Officer, Edwina, and Student Coordinator, Sally, attended the Public Interest Environmental Law (PIEL) conference at Cass Business School.

The conference itself was well attended with a range of different professions, although mostly lawyers, there were also environmentalists, economists and journalists who naturally took an interest in the day and the subject matter.

The conference was titled  “Climate Talks After Paris: Beyond the Pledges” and explored the landscape for environmental law post the Paris Agreement, which was the result of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC that took place in Paris in December 2015.

FullSizeRenderThe day provided insight from an impressive line up of speakers, from former UNFCCC Secretariat Kirsty Scheeberger to Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth, Gita Parihar. The event was finished off with a speech from Ned Westaway, PIEL’s founder, to mark PIEL’s 10 year anniversary.

Edwina and Sally set up an ALAW stall at the event to inform the attendees of the work we do. They had a lot of interest and we really hope this marks increased communication between the environmental and animal law community.

ALAW welcomes new trustee: Mike Radford, OBE LLB

ALAW is pleased to announce that Mike Radford, OBE LLB has joined our board of trustees.

Mike is Reader in Law at the University of Aberdeen. He established the first UK animal welfare law course in 1992, since when he has taught and lectured widely on the subject in addition to working extensively on the development of animal welfare law and policy with politicians, officials, veterinarians, NGOs, and other interested parties.

Mike is presently a trustee of Dogs Trust, the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, and OneKind; a member of the All Party Group on Animal Welfare; and a visiting lecturer at both Edinburgh and Glasgow Vet Schools.

He has previously been a member of the Companion Animal Welfare Council, the Dog Advisory Council, the Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law Board of the RCVS, a trustee of PDSA, Chairman of the Secretary of State’s Circus Working Group, and acted as ‘critical friend’ to Stephen Wooler in producing his report on RSPCA prosecutions. He was a founder member of both ALAW and the Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law Veterinary Association.

Mike was appointed OBE in 2008 for services to animal welfare law.  He lives in the Highlands with Janet, the remnants of a flock of pet sheep, and a succession of dogs rehomed from Dogs Trust.

APRIL 2016: see Mike Radford’s written and oral submissions to the EFRA Sub-Committee on animal welfare here.

ALAW pursues stronger sentencing in animal cruelty cases

We have received a number of enquiries from people concerned about inadequate sentencing in cases of animal cruelty.

As a legal charity concerned exclusively with animal welfare issues, we have raised concerns about the sentencing regime for animal cruelty cases to a Parliamentary Committee (The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Sub-Committee), which is currently examining domestic animal welfare provisions. Read more about the progress of the EFRA Sub-Committee here.

ALAW put in written submissions to the EFRA Sub-Committee. ALAW’s submissions focus exclusively on sentencing and we are aware that other groups have also raised this, amongst other general welfare issues. A copy of our submissions can be viewed via the following link:

You will see from the submissions that there has been some discussion in Parliament about the sentencing provisions for animal cruelty cases and Parliamentary Questions have been put to both a Minister for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and a Minister at the Ministry of Justice.

We are aware that there are a number of public petitions raising concern about the low level of sentences for animal cruelty cases. Petitions can be a good way of raising awareness of public concern with Government. If a petition gets 10,000 signatures the Government will respond and if it reaches 100,000 it will be considered for debate in Parliament.

EFRA Sub-Committee on animal welfare: domestic pets


The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sub-Committee is currently holding a series of inquiries into animal welfare issues. Domestic pets including cats, dogs and horses are the initial focus of the Sub-Committee, with attention turning to exotic pets at a later date.

ALAW’s involvement:

ALAW has made written submissions to the Sub-Committee on the issue of leniency of sentences in animal cruelty cases. Those submissions can be read here.

ALAW trustee Mike Radford has also made submissions to the Sub-Committee, which can be read here.

Progress of the inquiries:

ALAW will follow closely the progress of the inquiries. Updates will be posted on this page and across our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

All written and oral evidence is available to view on the Parliament website here. Oral submissions are available in video format and can be found below.

Tuesday 12th April 2016: Oral Evidence to the EFRA Sub-Committee

Tuesday 19th April 2016: Oral Evidence to the EFRA Sub-Committee

Tuesday 10th May 2016: Oral Evidence to the EFRA Sub-Committee

Tuesday 14 June 2016: Oral Evidence to the EFRA Sub-Committee

Tuesday 28 June 2016: Oral Evidence to the EFRA Sub-Committee (AUDIO ONLY)

Tuesday 12th July 2016: Oral Evidence to the EFRA Sub-Committee

31st July 2016: The sub-committee has now concluded its inquiries and we are awaiting its report.