If an animal welfare officer considers that an occurrence may justify legal procedures it is
important that the proper process is followed otherwise evidence may not be admissible
in court and the justified prosecution of an offender may fail. The process for obtaining
evidence must therefore always be borne in mind from the very start of any investigation.
Officers are advised to contact their legal department to ask what guidelines the council
may have for taking prosecutions. Policies vary significantly between councils and in
many cases prosecution will only be considered in the most extreme instances. It is
important that council procedures are followed to the letter.
The Human Rights Act 1998 provides individuals with a right to privacy from the authorities
and therefore restricts access to property. While an officer may have a right of access to
licensed premises, this is not generally the case for a domestic dwelling. Access is likely
to require magistrates to issue a search warrant and without a warrant any evidence
obtained is likely to be inadmissible. A warrant will only be issued if the officer can provide
evidence to the court that an offence is likely to have been committed.
The primary legislation controlling investigative powers is the Regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The following parameters are the basis of RIPA:
● that the proposed action is lawful;
● that the proposed action is necessary;
● that the proposed act is proportionate;
● that the action is non-discriminatory.
Officers are advised to seek advice from their legal department for clarification.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) is the primary legislation which covers
searching, evidential procedures and the seizure of property. Searches of property can
only be undertaken with the consent of the owner, under warrant or after arrest by a police
constable. If consent is obtained from the owner the animal welfare officer must ensure
that this is in writing or is recorded in his notes. The results of any search must be
recorded at the time of the search or as soon as possible afterwards. The record, as
detailed in Section 3(6)(a) of the Act, must include the date and time of the search and
any result including any property seized and any damage to property.
During a search property may be seized if the officer has reasonable grounds for believing
it is evidence of an offence or has been obtained in consequence of the commission of an
offence. Seizure must be necessary to prevent the items being concealed, lost, disposed
of, altered, damaged, destroyed or tampered with.
If an animal is found which the officer considers is evidence because of its condition, it is
advisable to arrange an examination by a veterinary surgeon immediately. The council
may retain the animal as evidence until the case is determined. Consideration should be
given, in minor cases, to obtaining photographic evidence and the animal being retained
by the owner. If seized the owner must be granted supervised access to the animal.
In cases of neglect and cruelty veterinary evidence is likely to form the basis of a
prosecution. However, other evidence may be of use such as photographs of excretions
in the dog’s quarters, filthy and inadequate bedding, dirty, dank and unkempt kennels.
Anything seized or photographs obtained become exhibits and will be referred to as such
in the officer’s notes, for example:
Dog “Prince” seized by warden John Smith – Exhibit JS/1
Photograph of “Prince’s” kennel by warden John Smith – Exhibit JS/2
Officers generally do not have powers of arrest. If it is considered necessary to detain a
person, assistance should be sought from the police.
If the officer considers there are grounds to suspect an offence has been committed, the
person must be cautioned before any questions about the offence, or further questions if
the answers provide the grounds for suspicion, are put to them. If officers are acting upon
information and immediately see evidence of an offence they must caution the suspect.
Failure to do so will render any admissions inadmissible. It is always better to caution
early rather than late. This applies if either the suspect’s answers or silence (that is failure
or refusal to answer or answer satisfactorily) may be given in evidence to a court in a
prosecution. The caution is:
“You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention,
when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be
given in evidence.”
All notes should be made at the time and offered to the suspect to read and sign as correct.
It is advisable to keep hold of the papers otherwise the individual may seize them! If they
refuse to sign, mark the notes accordingly. If notes are not made at the time state the reason
and show the time, date and place they were completed, stating that the matters were
still fresh in your memory. For this reason they must be completed as soon as possible
after the incident. It is usual practice to record interviews under caution.
Throughout the process of investigating an offence it is essential that contemporaneous
notes are kept. These may be used to produce a formal statement at a later stage and
referred to in court.
When outside agents, such as veterinary surgeons, are involved in investigative procedures
it is worth reminding them also of the requirement for a contemporaneous (taken at the
time or immediately afterwards) record and continuity of evidence handling. Most veterinary
surgeons are not used to court proceedings and their evidence may be vital especially if
the prosecution is to be taken under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Officers are advised to contact their legal department at an early stage of investigating a
case for advice on the collection of further evidence and provision of statements. It is
advisable that all officers make themselves aware of the PACE codes of practice which
can be obtained through their legal department.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER ORGANISATIONS
Communication plays a substantial element in the overall work of animal welfare officers.
If the message is not put across in a manner which the intended recipient can understand,
there is unlikely to be the desired effect. Equally, the way in which the animal welfare officer
communicates will affect his relationship with work colleagues and services and
organisations with which he comes into contact.
If either the concept of an animal welfare officer is new or the officer is himself new in
post, any fears and misunderstandings can be alleviated if introductions are made to
other organisations. This offers the opportunity for the officer to explain his role. Visiting
dog training clubs, local rescue centres and veterinary practices would be an effective
start. It also offers the opportunity to find out how collaboration might be improved.
Inevitably the resources provided for animal welfare officers are limited. Many large
charities may have facilities such as housing for animals and re-homing centres which are
not funded by the local authority. Although the animal welfare officer may have use of
kennels and a budget to obtain veterinary treatment for the sick and injured, it is likely
that assistance will be required from an animal welfare charity at some stage.
It is also unlikely that animal welfare officers will have a breadth of knowledge which covers
the complete range of species which may be presented. There are therefore likely to be
occasions when specialist advice will be required. The animal welfare officer should make
a positive attempt to build a relationship with such potential advisors for use in the future.
The diagram on page 4-3 illustrates the majority of people and services you will come into
County animal welfare forums
Although contact with neighbouring animal welfare services will assist coordination, it is
also helpful to attend your county animal welfare forum. Although not all counties have
such forums, the number is slowly increasing. These forums offer a very good base for
like-minded officers to exchange ideas, obtain advice, share information and learn. The
forum is usually open to all officers who have an interest in animal licensing and welfare.
Members normally include:
Environmental health officers
Animal health officers
Animal welfare officers (including dog and animal wardens)
Police (who may have an animal liaison officer)
Animal welfare charity representatives
Apart from being a source of help, the forum can act as a collective body representing
authorities within the county to respond to consultations and enquiries. They can also be
a good vehicle to disseminate information and keep members up to date with changes to
procedures and legislation. In some cases training for officers is available. In addition
forums assist in setting similar standards for inspections in neighbouring areas so that
inconsistency is reduced. This may include a comparison of fees charged for licensing to
reduce significant differences being charged for similar premises.
The forum should also offer the opportunity to obtain a better understanding of other
organisation’s working difficulties. It may help to clarify responsibility for enforcement of
particular legislation and how organisations can collaborate to improve it and reduce
antagonism between persons working to different operational procedures.
To find out if a forum is present in your county, ask your neighbouring officers and contact
the policy officer for companion animals at the Local Authorities Coordinators of
Regulatory Services (LACORS) or visit LACORS website liaison section, or the local
authority officer of the RSPCA based at their headquarters (see contacts list for both).
Relationships and Contacts
1. Environmental Services
2. Housing Services
Farmers 3. Leisure Services (Parks)
Park rangers 4. Planning Services (Consultations)
Community officers 5. Legal Services
Dog training clubs 6. Animal Health Officer
Bird/reptile/fish society members 7. Trading Standards
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) 8. Highways
eg: RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Kennel Club, Blue Cross, 9. Road Safety Officer
Battersea Dogs Home, Cats Protection 10.Rights of Way Officer
Pet Care Trust, Animal rescue centre 11.Social Services
Local veterinary practice Welfare
Animal keeper/pet owner
1. Animal welfare
Solicitors County Animal Welfare Forums
Health service 1. EHOs
Fire brigade 2. Technical officer
Coroner’s office 3. Dog/animal warden
Post office 4. Licensing officer
Utility workers 5. Animal health officer/trading standards