A wide range of animals are owned or cared for by people as their pets in England. These include dogs, cats, horses and rabbits, through to fish, reptiles and birds and other animals.

Owning and caring for a pet can be a very positive experience for people and be extremely beneficial to their health. However looking after a pet is also a responsibility and they must be cared for properly.


The main piece of legislation that protects pets is the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It requires all those responsible for an animal (whether on a permanent or temporary basis) to take reasonable steps to meet the welfare needs of the animal (see section 9).

The welfare needs of an animal include:

  • its need for a suitable environment,
  • its need for a suitable diet,
  • its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,
  • any need to be house with, or apart from, other animals, and
  • its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Defra has also produced Codes of Practice to provide further information about the welfare needs of the following species:

The following pages provide information about the RSPCA’s welfare concerns for different pet animals.


Cat and dog meat

  The RSPCA is against any consumption of cat and dog meat for welfare reasons and there are no abattoirs...

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Licensing of different animal activities

The RSPCA identified a number of problems with the current legislation which regulates the pet trade – covering dogs, cats,...

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Exotic pets

More unusual animals kept as pets are known as non-domestics or exotics.  Examples include snakes, terrapins, lizards, scorpions, frogs and...

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There are between 9.5-11.6 million cats in the UK and owning a cat can be extremely rewarding however cats retain...

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There are approximately 8.5 million dogs in the UK.  Dogs can be great companions and have a positive impact on,...

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The RSPCA is under immense operational pressure in responding to the horse crisis. We now have around 1,000 horses in...

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