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Wildlife and Pets

Cat and dog on sofa

The UK has a diverse and unique range of wildlife, but it’s not something we can take for granted. Over-exploitation (such as overfishing), habitat loss and the impact of non-native species all pose a threat as, of course, does the impact of climate change.


Defra offers advice and guidance to pet owners, and also develops and enforces legislation to protect pets against cruelty. This includes:

Travelling with pets

The Pets Travel Scheme allows certain pets (cats, dogs etc) to enter the UK without quarantine.

Protecting pets from cruelty

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 marks a major development. It is no longer enough to prevent cruelty to animals; owners must now take active steps to ensure their welfare needs are met.

Dangerous dogs

Defra developed the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which makes it an offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place, and prohibits outright certain types of dog, such as the Pit Bull terrier. We recently completed a public consultation on whether the Act has adequately protected the public and encouraged responsible dog ownership.

Dangerous wild animals

The private keeping of certain dangerous wild animals is regulated through a licensing scheme administered and enforced at local authority level.  Those species that are considered to be dangerous are listed in a Schedule to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and require a licence: such licences are only granted when certain criteria are met and following an inspection of the animals proposed accommodation.

Protecting and managing wildlife

We all value the wildlife we have.  It inspires and enriches our lives, contributes to our wellbeing and underpins the ecosystem services we need to survive.  We meet our national and international obligations to conserve and protect rare and vulnerable species and make sure they are effectively protected and managed in a fair and humane way.

Wildlife crime and smuggling

Wildlife crime in the UK can threaten endangered plant and animal species, can cause animal’s pain and suffering, can be linked to other serious crimes such as firearms offences, and can affect local communities. The UK is also an international market for the legal and illegal trade in wildlife. International wildlife smuggling has become a multi-billion pound industry, threatening local economies and livelihoods as well as native populations. The UK actively participates in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in supporting European and international activities to tackle these crimes.

Invasive non-native species

Invasive non-native species are plants or animals that have been introduced into the UK by humans, either deliberately or accidently, can have a significant impact on our environment, economy and health. Our approach to this issue is based on the government’s Non-Native Species Framework Strategy.

Regulation of zoos

Zoos in Great Britain are regulated by the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and Council Directive 1999/22/EC (the Zoos Directive). In England, Defra is responsible for the policy side of zoo legislation while its Executive Agency, Animal Health is responsible for maintaining a list of Zoo Inspectors. Responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the licensing system and implementation of the Act rests with local authorities.

Page last modified: 10 March 2011