Animal Cruelty Defence Lawyers

If you have been accused of animal cruelty by the RSPCA or the police, our Animal Welfare Defence Solicitors can help you. As well as working closely with you, we will liaise directly with the RSPCA on your behalf, advise you about the status of your case, and recommend the best course of action for you to take.

The public interest in cases of animal mistreatment can cause considerable reputational damage, and the sentences can be severe.

Here at Draycott Browne, we understand how distressing accusations of animal cruelty can be, particularly if you feel they are unfounded. Depending on the circumstances, you may find yourself facing a fine, a custodial sentence, and possibly even disqualification from keeping animals in the future. 

Over the years, our experience in working with people accused of animal cruelty tells us that many cases are based on either mistaken observations, a dispute, or are made by a well-meaning observer who doesn’t understand the true circumstances,  and can often be settled quickly.

In cases where animal cruelty has occurred, we work on our clients’ behalf to secure the best possible outcome for their cases. 

If you have been accused of an offence in relation to the mistreatment of animals, call now to discuss how our expert Criminal Defence Solicitors could help.

Why might I have been accused?

According to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, owners and handlers of animals must ensure that the ‘Five Welfare Needs’ of all domestic animals and livestock are adequately provided for. These five needs include:

  • The need to be kept in a suitable environment that serves the animal’s needs
  • The need to be provided with a suitable diet
  • The need to be kept in an environment where they are free to display their natural behavioural patterns
  • The need to be kept with or apart from (depending on the animal’s needs) other animals
  • The need to be adequately protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease

Whether you work with livestock, own animals as pets, or handle wildlife, you could be charged with animal cruelty if you are suspected of:

  • Causing unnecessary suffering to an animal directly, or allowing suffering to be caused to an animal
  • Poisoning a protected animal
  • Carrying out a prohibited procedure, such as tail docking, or allowing such a procedure to take place
  •  Allowing an animal to be used in a prohibited or illegal way (such as allowing a dog to be used in dog fighting)
  • Neglecting an animal in your care or failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that an animal’s needs are taken care of.

It is important to remember that charges can be brought against individuals who, despite not personally causing harm to the animals in their care, do not prevent other individuals from causing harm. In this way, the owner of a stable could be held accountable if people on their yard fail to provide for the horses’ five areas of need.

Understandably, members of the public are often concerned for animals’ welfare, and it is common for false claims to be made against individuals who have not committed any acts of animal cruelty. In these circumstances, the support of an experienced solicitor will be vital throughout the investigation.

What powers do the RSPCA have?

Allegations of animal cruelty are brought by either the RSPCA or the police.  The police have the right to arrest and charge individuals under the laws set out in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.  The RSPCA do not have the power to arrest, and their requests are not enforceable by law.  An RSPCA are able to prosecute you privately if they believe there is sufficient evidence to do so.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a charity whose overarching aim is to promote animal welfare.  The charity has the legal right to investigate suspected cases of animal cruelty. Such investigations often involve visiting your home and assessing your animal's welfare, with RSPCA investigators often being prompted by anonymous tip-offs from neighbours or members of the public.

Unlike the police, the RSPCA do not have any legal power to arrest you or force you to submit to questioning, but they do have the power to enact private legal proceedings against you, which can be costly.

Given the RSPCA's power to investigate cases of animal cruelty privately, it is imperative that you seek legal assistance as soon as an accusation of animal cruelty is lodged against you.

Engaging the help of a qualified defence solicitor during the first stages of an investigation is not an admission of guilt but is a reasonable step to take when facing a charge of animal cruelty.

An RSPCA Prosecution can have very serious consequences, and it is vital to seek expert legal advice from the outset.

Understandably, cases of this nature are highly emotive, making it difficult for you to make rational decisions on your own. Additionally, the law that governs animal cruelty cases is complex , and only a trained solicitor can help you navigate the process confidently.

What happens when allegations of animal cruelty are made?

If you are accused of animal cruelty, there is likely to be an investigation by the RSPCA or the police.   

If the police are involved, and there is sufficient evidence to do so, you may be arrested and read your rights. Given how serious a charge of animal cruelty can be, we recommend that you contact Draycott Browne’s team of compassionate and experienced Animal Welfare Defence Lawyers as soon as you become aware of an investigation.

If you are arrested in the UK, you have the right to remain silent during police questioning, and we strongly advise you to enact this right until you can speak to a member of our dedicated and diligent defence team.

During your time at the police station, you will be offered the assistance of a duty solicitor, but it’s important to remember that these individuals are unlikely to be trained in animal cruelty law and, as such, are unlikely to be able to provide you with the level of guidance and help that you need to engage confidently in such a stressful and confusing process.

What if I am found guilty?

If a police investigation or a private RSPCA prosecution finds you guilty of animal cruelty, you could face serious sanctions, including:

  • The removal of your pets
  • Up to five months in prison
  • Disqualification from keeping animals for a specified period (usually years)
  • A fine

If the prosecution was brought privately by the RSPCA, the charity will also charge you for the cost of bringing your case to court in the first place, an amount which could run into the thousands of pounds. You will also be responsible for paying any boarding fees that the charity incurs because of your animal being seized and removed from your ownership.

How are animal cruelty allegations defended?

Animal cruelty is a complex, unusual and emotive area of UK law. Due to the nature of the accusation, individuals who are charged with animal cruelty are often subjected to higher-than-usual degrees of media scrutiny, which can lead to backlash from the public and even abuse.

Given the severity of such charges, we seek to bring cases of animal cruelty accusations to an end swiftly.

Our Animal Welfare Solicitors have been specially trained in this area of the law and have the knowledge and expertise to understand how such cases are handled in the courts and how defences should be prepared.  With years of court experience, we have the knowledge and prowess to effectively question the prosecution's witnesses, examine the evidence held against you by the prosecution, and bring in veterinary science and other experts to provide expert counsel in your case.

Contact Us Today

If you have been accused of animal cruelty or are under investigation currently, you should contact our team of Animal Welfare Lawyers immediately for advice on how you should respond.

When individuals are accused of animal cruelty, they may be extremely confused about why the charges have been brought against them, and what will happen next. They are likely to worry about what will happen to any animals that they have in their care, as well as what will happen to them if they are found guilty of the charges. Keeping a clear and logical head in such instances is understandably difficult, and it’s for that reason that we strongly encourage you to speak to a member of team as soon as you find yourself embroiled in an animal cruelty prosecution case.

We understand that navigating legal terminology, proceedings and regulations is often extremely difficult due to the complexity of UK law, and we know that the emotive nature of animal cruelty cases makes them especially difficult to manage and handle. Whatever the nature of your animal cruelty case, our approachable, compassionate and tenacious solicitors will be by your side throughout your case, obtaining evidence, speaking to witnesses, and doing our utmost to clarify the situation as it unfolds.

We understand that, in many cases, the tip-offs made to the RSPCA are done by people who have very little, if any, true understanding of your animal's experiences, and often turn out to be false. However, if there are grounds for an animal cruelty charge, we will be honest about your prospects, keeping you abreast of any potential damages, financial losses, or custodial sentences that you could expect to face as a result of your involvement. In every case, we will do our utmost to submit a strong defence that will help you to achieve the best outcome possible for your case.

As one of the UK's leading Criminal Law Firms, we are highly regarded nationally across the legal profession and noted for consistently delivering positive results for our clients on cases involving dangerous dog laws, animal welfare and RSPCA Prosecutions. 

We pride ourselves on our determination and dedication to achieve the right result.. We act regularly act for clients in Manchester, Preston, Blackpool, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham, and London. As recognised Criminal Defence Lawyers we can represent you wherever you live in England and Wales.

Contact Us

Featured Case Study