The Election – And What it Means for Animal Law


Readers of my blog will be aware that I am an advocate of reform of the rules in relation to pet ownership, and in particular dog ownership.  I believe the rules are too lax and as a result of this, too many pets are going to irresponsible owners which too often results in disaster – injury or death to a person, an animal and/or the dog itself.  All too often the irresponsible owners are the ones who do not insure their pets.

Unsurprisingly save for the Green Party, animal welfare was not a big priority for any of the major UK-wide parties at the 2015 General Election.  However the main parties all made pledges on animal policy and Labour and Liberal Democrats both planned to review the rules on ownership of dogs.  Labour criticised the Conservatives’ record on pet ownership and specifically pledged to “review the inadequate regulations on the sale and breeding of dogs”, while the Liberal Democrats similarly pledged to “review the rules surrounding the sale of pets to ensure they promote responsible breeding and sales”.


Disappointingly the Conservative manifesto did not contain any such pledge on the matter of dog ownership and as most legislation comes from bills drafted by governing departments, the prospect of change (in England) appears to be quite remote during the next parliament.  As we all know the Conservatives managed to achieve a majority against all the forecasts so there is not even the consolation of a coalition with Liberal Democrats to pin hopes of change on.


There is more cause for hope in Scotland - as has been well documented, the Scottish National Party took control of all but 2 of the seats available in Scotland.  Responsibility for animal welfare is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and the SNP in government is already working to improve the conditions of kept animals, including consultations on responsible dog ownership. 


I can only hope that these consultations result in real reform in Scotland – and that this paves the way for similar action south of the border.


So all in all, it is a disappointing election result in terms of pet ownership reform in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  However it will be interesting to see the results of the SNP’s consultations and whether any real action is taken.