The Importance of Enforcement


Updated December 2014

Importance of Enforcement
Responsibility for Enforcement
Practical Arrangements
Animal Protection Organizations - Opportunities
Recommended Reading

Importance of Enforcement

"Enforcement is of fundamental importance, because any measures to improve animal welfare can only be effective if they are properly implemented and enforced." 

-Professor Sir Colin R W Spedding KBE, former Chairman, UK Farm Animal Welfare Council.

Mike Radford (UK Lawyer) categorized seven important functions of enforcement:

  • Enforcement informs people about the legislation's existence
  • Enforcement educates them as to their legal responsibilities towards animals
  • Enforcement is instrumental in raising and maintaining standards
  • Enforcement can prevent animal abuse
  • When it fails in this, enforcement enables animals to be removed from the cause of that abuse
  • Enforcement upholds the rule of law by demonstrating that the state, through the courts, will punish those who flout it
  • Enforcement identifies problems and weaknesses in the legislation, and can therefore form the basis on which to campaign for further reform


Responsibility for Enforcement

Legislation must make it clear who is responsible for its enforcement. This may include:

  • The police
  • Other national/government bodies
  • Federal authorities
  • Regional/state authorities
  • Local authorities
  • Animal wardens (animal welfare officers in more advanced countries dog catchers in worst case scenario)
  • Animal protection organizations
  • Veterinarians
  • Individuals

The choice of enforcement authority and enforcement channels is a difficult, but vital one. This is one area that animal protection groups can influence to their advantage. Considerations include:

  • Specialist knowledge - background, training, expertise.
  • Conflict in duties - animal protection should be sole duty, or complement existing work - not conflict (e.g. pest control officer doing stray control)
  • Level of coverage - wide level of coverage needed
  • Accountability - accountability and transparency needed, with full information on enforcement coverage and outcomes
  • Control and coordination - needed where more than one body involved in enforcement


Practical Arrangements

When animal protection legislation is drafted and introduced, the enforcement mechanism should be planned to give maximum effect to the written law.
The logistics of enforcement need careful planning. For example:


See above.


  • Oversight/Co-ordination
  • Licensing of premises/procedures/animals/owners
  • Statutory control of those whose work brings them into contact with animals, (including standards, discipline, training, and competence)
  • Education
  • Public relations
  • Inspection - Routine/cross-check, prioritizing risk points (e.g. markets etc.)
  • Powers of entry
  • Record keeping requirements/access
  • Taking evidence/statements
  • Court procedures
  • Sanctions/Penalties (fines, imprisonment, confiscation, ban on keeping animals etc.
  • Statistics
  • Administrative procedures

Accommodation/Physical Facilities

  • Accommodation for staff
  • Facilities for holding and re-homing animals (consider different species involved. Own facilities or sub-contracting?)
  • Vehicles
  • Uniforms
  • Catching and handling equipment
  • Access to veterinary support facilities
  • Access to expertise and facilities for all (likely) species (remember confiscations)


  • Recruitment (qualities needed?)
  • Training and development
  • Supervision/Management
  • Extent of coverage
  • Standards

Enforcement should be uniform across the territory, both as regards levels of coverage and application. Guidance notes should be provided for enforcement officers to cover any areas of doubt.


Enforcement is said to be 90% education and advice. It is wrong to measure successful enforcement of animal protection legislation solely in terms of prosecutions. Effective education is more often successful in the longer-term, and the preventative approach is always preferable to action after animals have suffered. An effective enforcement officer never misses an opportunity to educate, and recognizes the provision of expert guidance and advice as a focal part of the role. However, education about animal protection issues and legislation is something that should be shared amongst all interest groups, including:

  • Enforcement bodies
  • State Veterinary Service/government
  • Veterinary profession
  • Veterinary institutes
  • Agricultural colleges/universities
  • Animal protection societies
  • Research organizations
  • Equipment manufacturers
  • Feed suppliers
  • Private sector advisory and training agencies

The education process can include many different approaches, for example:

  • General Media -- television, radio, newspaper and magazines
  • Educational seminars on animal welfare for animal industries and personnel
  • Practical training and demonstrations
  • Lectures and lessons for schools (or clubs) and further education facilities
  • Videos, leaflets and brochures
  • Exhibitions in trade fairs
  • Direct awareness campaigns, such as travelling information stands (or trailers/buses), static stalls in town centers etc.
  • Articles in specialist magazines, including trade journals and animal protection magazines


Animal Protection Organizations - Opportunities

Animal protection law enforcement provides a number of opportunities for animal protection societies, including:

  • Campaigning and lobbying for practical improvements
  • Supplementing official enforcement and investigations
  • Taking part in official enforcement mechanism (e.g. through contract/tender)
  • Involvement in government committees on animal protection
  • Taking part in educational aspects


Recommended Reading

Recommended for further reading: