Very soon, our friends across the pond will enact some of the most wide-ranging, animal anti-cruelty legislation in the world. Essentially, this legislation effectively criminalizes pet neglect. Those unwilling to care for their pets properly by failing to provide needed veterinary services (not to mention basic care) would be eligible for their day in court—courtesy of their fellow Brits.

Three basic rules affecting both farmed and pets include twenty bits of animal legislation including the following significant points (reprinted from the UK government’s website):

The Animal Welfare Act will be the most significant animal welfare legislation for nearly a century. It will:

  • reduce animal suffering by enabling preventive action to be taken before suffering occurs
  • place on people who are responsible for domestic and companion animals a duty requiring them to do all that is reasonable to ensure the welfare of their animals
  • extend the existing power to make secondary legislation to promote the welfare of farmed animals to non-farmed animals, bringing legislation for non-farmed animals in line with that for farmed animals (see proposals for secondary legislation)
  • deter persistent offenders by strengthening penalties and eliminating many loopholes in the current system. For example, those causing unnecessary suffering to an animal will face up to 51 weeks in prison, a fine of up to £20,000, or both
  • simplify the legislation for enforcers and animal keepers by consolidating over 20 pieces of legislation into one
  • extend to companion animals welfare codes agreed by Parliament, a mechanism currently used to provide guidance on welfare standards for farmed animals
  • strengthen and amend current offences related to animal fighting
  • increase the effectiveness of law enforcement for animal welfare offences
  • increase from 12 to 16 the minimum age at which a child may buy an animal, and prohibit the giving of pets as prizes to unaccompanied children under the age of 16
  • ban mutilations of animals, with certain specified exemptions

No longer are British pets mere property, refrigerator-like objects potentially unworthy of repair should they seem less than valuable to their supposed caretakers.

It seems incredible that in the UK something like this hasn’t yet been enacted, considering the attitude of the British people toward their animals. The reluctance on the part of government to do so until now speaks volumes about the difficult plight of animals in even the most enlightened states.

Congratulations, UK citizens. Hopefully ours won't be too far behind.