Animal health and welfare

Animal welfare

We ensure the welfare needs of animals are met by placing a duty of care on the people responsible.

The welfare of all protected animals is provided for under the Animal Health and Welfare Scotland (Act) 2006. The act places a duty of care on pet owners and others responsible for animals to ensure that the welfare needs of their animals are met. We produced supplementary information in the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act guidance

We introduced the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill in 2019 to improve the penalties and powers available to enforcement agencies and the courts.  The bill also introduces improved procedures for making permanent arrangements for animals taken into possession by the authorities in order to protect their welfare.

Farm animal welfare

The animal health and welfare in the livestock industry: strategy 2016 to 2021 is a five-year strategy, tailored to Scotland's needs. The strategy was prepared in consultation with farming organisations, animal welfare organisations and scientists.

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 outline the standards by which farmed animals are required to be kept in Scotland. It is an offence for a person responsible for farmed animals to fail to comply with any provisions that these Regulations make.

Farmed animal welfare is the responsibility of the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA). Any specific concerns you may have regarding the welfare of farmed animals should be reported to your local APHA office.

We produce a series of guides on the welfare of animals:

Highland Islands Veterinary Services Scheme

The Scottish Government funds and administers the Highland Islands Veterinary Services Scheme, which aims to ensure the provision of an adequate veterinary service in some remote areas of the Scottish highlands and islands. This helps to prevent and eradicate animal diseases for all animals kept for agricultural purposes and belonging to crofters and others of like economic status in these remote areas and ensures that the large animal practices serving them remain viable and continue play their vital role in prevention and identification of animal disease. 

Horse welfare and other equidae 

Horses, donkeys and other equids may be kept for a variety of reasons, to aid with agricultural or forestry tasks, for competition, or companionship.  These guides are relevant to their welfare:

Pet animal welfare

We produce a series of guides on the welfare of pet animals:

In 2018, we consulted on proposals for new legislation to regulate the breeding of dogs, cats and pet rabbits.

Dog microchipping and training

All dogs over eight weeks old in Scotland must be microchipped under the Microchipping of Dogs (Scotland) Regulations 2016. This includes dogs being implanted with a microchip and having their details registered on a compliant database. The current keeper is the person responsible for ensuring that dogs are microchipped. 

Further information:

Due to concerns about the potential for misuse we have issued guidance on the use of dog training aids, including electronic training collars.


We produce guidance on the welfare on animals in transit:

Welfare of animals at slaughter

There are a number of laws that govern animal slaughter in Scotland. We have recently consulted on introducing compulsory CCTV in abattoirs.


The use of wild animals in travelling circuses is banned in Scotland under the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018. We have produced guidance to accompany the law.

Material relating to the development of this policy on wild animals in circuses is available on the archive.

Performing animals

Anyone exhibiting or training a performing animal for other public displays (except for military, police, agricultural or sporting purposes) should continue to register with their local authority under Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925.

We are considering how to update this legislation, in response to the growing number of mobile animal 'experiences', including animals being taken into schools and various other types of mobile zoo or animal encounter which can raise welfare concerns about the way these animals are trained, handled, transported and accommodated.

We are supporting research to obtain more information about current mobile animal experiences of all types in Scotland. The research is a collaboration between the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and the Scottish SPCA.


Read the guidance on the licensing, inspection and dispensation of zoos in Scotland.

Dangerous wild animals

The keeping of dangerous wild animals is regulated by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. It aims to protect the public and to ensure that the animals are properly cared for.

The Act defines a dangerous wild animal and includes animals such as lions, chimpanzees, crocodiles, and certain venomous snakes and spiders. 

Further information: 

Animal sanctuaries

We are currently developing legislation in this area having consulted in 2018 on the registration and licensing of animal sanctuaries and rehoming activities in Scotland

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