Cats - The legal issues of trespass and fouling

What is the law relating to cats fouling?

There are no specific laws which relate to cats and fouling.

The law of trespass

The law relating to the trespass of domestic animals is contained in the Animals Act 1971. However, cats enjoy a unique position as the Animals Act 1971 does not apply to them. A cat cannot, therefore, in law trespass. As a cat cannot trespass its owner cannot be legally responsible for what their cat does outside of their property.

The law of nuisance

Where animals are kept in such a manner or in such circumstances as to cause material discomfort or annoyance to the public in general or to a particular person the keeping of such animals may amount to a “nuisance”.

Where the public in general are subjected to the nuisance it is referred to as a “public nuisance”. Court proceedings for public nuisances are generally instigated by local authorities through the Criminal Courts (the Magistrate’s Court or the Crown Court). Public nuisances are punishable by fines and/ or imprisonment.

Sometimes public nuisances are described as “statutory nuisances”. This is where there is a specific act of parliament (a “statute”) which makes provision for a particular type of nuisance.

An example of a statutory nuisance can be found in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 a local authority has the power to prosecute a person where an animal is “kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”.

Where a particular individual is subjected to the nuisance it is referred to as a “private nuisance”. Court proceedings for private nuisances are brought by individuals through the Civil Courts (the County Court or the High Court).

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