In England and Wales there are no specific laws which are applicable to cats or cats fouling. However, there are other pieces of legislation which can be used in this instance. Firstly there is the law of trespass. Trespass concerning domestic animals is governed under guidance from the Animals Act 1971. However cats are excluded from the Act, providing them with a unique position. In the eyes of the law, a cat cannot therefore trespass.
Therefore, the owner cannot be held legally accountable for what their cat does beyond the boundaries of their property.
That being said, if an animal is causing an annoyance or material discomfort in a public place because the animal is being kept in a certain way or the actions of the individual keeping the animal is deemed to be a ‘nuisance’, the law of nuisance may be applicable.
Public nuisance is a term used to describe a situation whereby the public are subjected to nuisance behaviour. Public nuisances can result in court proceedings and they are usually instigated by the local authority in the Criminal Court. Usually these cases are heard in the Magistrates Court or Crown Court. If found guilty of causing a public nuisance, you could face a fine as well as, or instead of a custodial sentence.
Occasionally, a public nuisance may be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’. In this instance, a provision for a certain type of nuisance is made through an Act of Parliament also known as a statute.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 contains an example of statutory nuisance. In line with this Act, the local authority has the ability to start a prosecution against an individual where an animal is kept in a manner or place which is deemed to be prejudicial to health or creating a nuisance.
A private nuisance is a term used to describe an individual who is subject to any type of nuisance behaviour. Private nuisances can result in court proceedings and they are initiated by an individual through the Civil Courts. If the case proceeds to court and the Civil Courts are satisfied that the nuisance did occur, it has the power to award damages to the Claimant. In addition the Court can also issue an injunction against the Defendant which requires the defendant to cease causing a nuisance.
Where the case relates to the keeping of animals, it will be up to the Court to determine whether they are being kept in such a way that could amount to a nuisance. The law of nuisance is only applicable when there is a ‘material’ discomfort or annoyance. The Court will usually not grant an injunction in relation to cat fouling unless it is on a significant scale. An example would be where there are large numbers of cats kept by the same individual.
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Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)
In some situations causing a persistent nuisance with animals that would cause harassment, alarm and/or distress could result in the keeper of the animals being issued with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO).
An Anti-Social Behaviour Order is a civil order used to deal with nuisances in the local community such as anti-social behaviour. An application for one of these orders is usually made in partnership between a local authority and the police. When the local authority goes to court to obtain an order, it will usually be heard in the Magistrates Court and dealt with through civil laws. During the case, the court will determine whether the defendant’s actions were anti-social.
Failure to comply with an ASBO is a criminal offence and any breach will result in a fine and/or imprisonment. It is unlikely that the courts will issue an Anti-Social-Behaviour Order for cats fouling in general. The only time they will grant an Order for this is if the fouling is on a significant scale, usually when one owner has a substantial quantity of cats.
Deterring Cats Fouling
There are several things that you can do to deter cats fouling your property, some of which are more effective than others.
These include placing scents such as orange, peppermint and eucalyptus in the garden or making use of electric deterrents which omit a high pitched noise.
That being said, there are various things that you cannot do, no matter how annoying the cat fouling becomes. You should not do anything that may cause harm to the cat. In line with the Protection of Animals Act 1911, there are various actions which are illegal. This includes torture, terrifying, aggravating, or ill-treating the cat. Furthermore, it is a criminal offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Protection of Animals Act 1911 to administer substances which would cause harm to the cat including poisons.
The Animal Welfare Act 2005 makes it a criminal offence to allow any animal covered by the Act to suffer in an unnecessary way. Cats are just one of the animals protected under this Act.
In law, cats are treated the same as goods. Consequently, if you take a cat from its owner, this will be treated as theft. Cats fouling can be problematic and it has resulted in many disagreements and ongoing neighbour disputes. The best way to deal with cats fouling is to use the deterrents outlined above and not to take the law into your own hands.
About the author:
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team and posted by Lloyd Barrett. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.