Animal welfare law can be a complete minefield for those unfamiliar with these types of situations. Allegations in this area can sometimes lead to Magistrates court cases lasting in excess of a year. This is normally due to the involvement of numerous experts and specialists.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 allow the Police to remove animals from a property at an early stage. This usually involves the animal or pet being placed in the care of the RSPCA even before any interviews have been held with the owners. Nicholls & Nicholls offer advice and assistance in retrieving those pets and placing them back in your care.
The most frequent animal welfare prosecutions fall under Section 4 (unnecessary suffering), Section 9 (duty of person responsible) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and Section 1 (dog breed) of Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
The RSPCA is the second largest prosecuting authority in the UK, after the Crown Prosecution Service.
The Animal Welfare Act is particularly unusual as, unlike most summary only offences (matters that can only be dealt with in the Magistrates court), charges can be brought up to three years after the commission of the offence, not the usual six months.
The RSPCA will usually attend at properties without notice and should be present with Police officers and a warrant to be able to search your home and land. Without accompanying Police officers and a warrant, you should not allow the RSPCA to enter as the charity has no lawful authority to be there. There are some circumstances where Police officers can enter your home or land without a warrant, although this is limited to instances when there is a real belief of current suffering to the animal or pet. Usually, a Veterinarian has produced what is known as a Section 20 certificate to allow entry to happen.
Cases of these nature require close attention to criminal procedure on a frequent basis. Nicholls and Nicholls have links with expert witnesses who are forerunners in the legal and veterinary field to assist in the presentation of your defence.
Offences contrary to the Animal Welfare Act can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court and therefore carry a maximum of six months imprisonment. If convicted of an offence, the Prosecuting authority will almost always consider ancillary orders. These allow the Court to disqualify a person from keeping a specific type of animal, or all animals for any period of time, including indefinitely. It must be necessary however for this to be put in place. We have the expertise and knowledge to advise and provide representation in dealing with these issues.
Dangerous Dogs Prosecutions
Prosecutions under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, often relate to the appearance and breed of a dog. In the media, it is regular to see and hear of instances when dogs that look a certain type, are removed from their owners and possibly euthanised without having done anything wrong to a person or other animal.
This legislation is extremely controversial and badly implemented as it punishes dogs based on their breed or the number of characteristics they have that are linked to banned breeds. There is absolutely no link to the behaviour of the dog which consequently can have devastating consequences on the pet and the owners.
Cases of this nature can be dealt with in the Magistrates or the Crown court and could be relating to dogs found on both public or private property.
Experts are always involved with these types of cases. The Prosecuting authorities provide evidence in these expert reports stating that the particular dogs show enough of the relevant characteristics for him/her to be euthanised. If this occurs, the Court orders a Destruction Order unless we can refute their reports and their evidence.
Nicholls & Nicholls understand that events under this legislation can be totally non fault and come with heavy burdens for the owners of these dogs. We have a strong network of the best experts available to assist with veterinary and behavioural assessments to demonstrate to the court that these dogs can be placed on orders that allow them to remain living and within their regular homes.
Local Authority Prosecutions
Local Councils and Local Authorities regularly prosecute individuals and businesses for allegedly breaching regulations for noise nuisance, environmental health issues, waste disposal, breeding regulations and so on.
Farmers, dog breeders, and those who normally have more than one animal at their property can find themselves being investigated for numerous types of offences like those above and therefore require assistance in liaising with these authorities and ensuring that these regulations are not in breach. Nicholls & Nicholls have several fee earners who have agricultural backgrounds and are aware of the difficulties that can occur in these environments. We can offer assistance and represent you and your animal’s best interests during interviews and proceedings with organisations.