Cats and the law

The Cats Protection League has published, for free distribution to cat owners, the following interpretation of CATS AND THE LAW. It is important to remember that, according to the Animal Protection Act 1911, THE CAT IS A DOMESTIC ANIMAL and therefore enjoys certain rights under the law.

1. At Common Law, cats and dogs formerly fell within the exception to the rule that domestic and tame animals were larcenable. The probable reason for this was the severity of the ancient punishments for felony. Now, however, owners are protected under statute. The Theft Act 1968 acknowledges that all domestic animals, including cats and dogs, are capable of being stolen if taken from their owners unlawfully. Successful prosecutions have been made in the past and, as an example, at Clerken-well, London, three men were fined on charges of having possession of nine cats knowing them to have been stolen and conveying them in such a manner as to cause them unnecessary suffering.

2 Whilst it is a very regrettable thing that cats are not covered by the Road Traffic Act, nor are subject to licensing like dogs, their exclusion from the Acts nowise detracts from the protection afforded them by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, The Protection of Animals Act 1911, The Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 and The Animals Act 1971.

3 The many Acts of Parliament dating back to 1822, passed with the object of protecting animals, are all aimed at the elimination of ‘unnecessary abuse of an animal’.

It is the law that:

a) Ill-treatment

Under The Protection of Animals Act 1911, any person commits an offence who:

ill-treats, beats, kicks, infuriates, terrifies;

carries or conveys in a manner to cause unnecessary suffering; commits any act that will cause unnecessary suffering to a cat or kitten; causes anyone to do any of these things: or, being a cat owner, allows someone else to do these things to his cat;

on conviction, such a person is liable to a fine or imprisonment or both.

The Court may also deprive the owner, if he be the offender, of ownership of the animal.

b) Cruelty

Similarly, any person commits an offence who, through cruelty, causes any damage or injury to a cat. The case of Nye ©Niblett 1918 brings cats within the ambit of property which may be protected from being ‘damaged’ or ‘destroyed’. Thus a person who, without lawful excuse, destroys or damages a cat belonging to another, intending to do so, or by being reckless, commits an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. A threat to damage or destroy a cat belonging to a third party, is also an offence, if the threat is made without lawful excuse.

c) Painful experiments

Under The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, any person who conducts painful

experiments on living animals, without the use of anaesthetics, commits an offence. Licences issued by The Home Secretary are required before any such experiments can be carried out. Penalties include fines and/or imprisonment.

d) Operations

Under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, any person commits an offence who performs an operation without ‘due care and humanity’. This includes the castration of any male kitten without an anaesthetic.

e) Abandonment

Under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960, any person who, being the owner, or having control of an animal, abandons it such that the animal suffers, is guilty of cruelty and becomes liable to a fine and/or imprisonment as prescribed in the Act.

f) Poisons

Under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, any person who deliberately and intentionally administers any poison or injurious drug or substance to any animal, or causes this to be done by another, is guilty of an offence. Equally a person commits an offence if he knowingly puts poison down or causes another to do so in any building or place without taking reasonable precautions to avoid harming cats and kittens in the area.

4 Boarding Establishments

The Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 delegates to Local Authorities the control and licensing of all animal boarding establishments within their area. Licences are renewable annually on payment of a fee and the onus for regular inspection is placed on the Local Environmental Health Officer. Complaints regarding the conduct of such establishments should therefore be brought to the attention of this Department within the Local Authority concerned. The Act allows the Local Authority to refuse a licence or to withdraw a licence; in such cases appeal may be made to the Magistrates Court. A conviction of cruelty could result in the cancelling of a licence and the disqualification of a proprietor from having custody of animals.

5 Pet Shops

The Pet Animal Act 19S1 requires the licensing of Pet Shops by the Local Authority. Unsatisfactory premises, overcrowding and low standards of hygiene could result in the loss of a licence. A requirement of licensing is that kittens should not be sold at too early an age nor to children under the age of twelve years.

6 Trespass

The question of trespass by cats frequently arises and is often a matter of dispute between neighbours. Animals can trespass and certainly do so when they enter land or premises where they have no authority to be. However, the cat is different. It is special inasmuch as its owner is not liable for the consequence of its activities when it trespasses. The following extract from the press illustrates this adequately:

‘It was held by Judge Crosthwaite at Liverpool that the cat has a right to prowl. Jarrus Edwin Withers, tenant of a ground-floor flat in St. George’s Road, Hightown, Liverpool, sought an injunction against the tenant of the flat above to keep her cat under control and claimed damages. The offending cat, it was said, got into Withers’ flat, ate mince pies and fish, got on to a bed and scratched the bedpost. For the plaintiff, it was contended that a cat was in the same category as a dog and it was the owner’s duty to keep it under control. In reply, it was argued that an owner was not liable for a cat’s actions “when trespassing and following its natural propensities”.’ Judgement was given against Withers with costs.

Another case quoted from The Smallholder reaffirms the same point of law. An injury to poultry had been caused by the intrusion of a neighbour’s cat. In the ensuing case, it was ruled that for such an injury, however caused, the owner of the cat was not liable. It was said that no provision existed that required that the owner of the cat should take steps to prevent the recurrence of this happening. It was held that a cat is an animal which has a propensity to roam and do damage of this kind. The owner of the poultry was obliged to keep his poultry so that the cats could not have access to them. The owner of the cat needed to do nothing in the matter and could ignore any claim made for any loss caused by the cat.

7 Rabies

In order to reduce the possibility of rabies spreading from the Continent of Europe to the United Kingdom, the Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and other Mammals) Order 1974, was issued. This controls the import of dogs, cats and other species and requires import licences to be obtained. Animals may only enter through one of the following ports or airports: Airports: Birmingham, Gatwick, Heathrow, Leeds, Manchester,

Edinburgh, Glasgow, Prestwick.

Ports: Dover, Harwich, Hull, Liverpool, Southampton.

Hoverport: Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate.

Applications for licences may be made for arrivals in England or Wales to: Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Hook Rise South, Tolworth, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 7NF; and for Scotland:

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, Chesser House, 500 George Street, Edinburgh Ehll 3AW

After landing, the animal must be moved from the point of entry as soon as possible to a quarantine kennel licensed officially by the Ministry. The period of quarantine is laid down as six months and the expense of keeping the animal falls entirely on the owner. If an animal is brought into the country illegally, it may be put down and the owner prosecuted. A number of recent cases have resulted in heavy fines and/or terms of imprisonment of up to twelve months. Should an outbreak of rabies occur, the Minister may issue an order restricting the movement of animals, including cats, into or out of a specific area. He may also order the compulsory vaccination of animals against the disease and empower Veterinary Inspectors to take and destroy uncontrolled animals. There are no restrictions respecting cats under the Foot and Mouth Disease (Infected Areas Restriction Order) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food does not require the slaughter of cats in the event of their being on, or near to, premises which are within an infected area.

8 Prosecutions

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals deals with a very large number of cases under the laws to which reference has been made in the preceding paragraphs. Cases of cruelty that come within the meaning of the various Acts, supported by reliable and irrefutable evidence, should be reported to the local inspectors or to the RSPCA Headquarters.