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). Where a Civil Court is satisfied that a nuisance has occurred it may award damages (compensation) to the Claimant (the person bringing the claim) and may grant an injunction requiring the Defendant (the person against whom the claim has been brought) requiring them to stop the nuisance.
It is the function of the Courts to decide whether, in a particular case, the keeping of animals in the manner in which they are kept or in the circumstances in which they are kept, amounts to a nuisance. Since the law of nuisance only applies where there is “material” discomfort or annoyance the Courts are unlikely to grant an injunction in relation to a nuisance relating to the fouling by cats unless the fouling is on a substantial scale, for example, where a very large number of cats are kept by one particular person.
Anti-social behaviour orders
The keeping of animals can in some circumstances be the subject of an anti-social behaviour order (commonly known as an “ASBO”).
An anti-social behaviour order is a civil order made against someone who has engaged in anti-social behaviour. Applications for anti-social behaviour orders are generally made by local authorities or the police and are heard by Magistrates sitting in their civil capacity. The Court will only grant an anti-social behaviour order where it is sure that the Defendant has acted in an anti-social manner.
Failure to comply with an anti-social behaviour order is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment.
The Courts are unlikely to grant an anti-social behaviour order in relation to the fouling by cats unless the fouling is on a substantial scale, for example, where a very large number of cats are kept by one particular person.
Is there anything else I can do?
There are a number of things which cats dislike and which can be used as deterrents. These include prickly plants, scents such as orange, peppermint and eucalyptus and electronic deterrents which are designed to keep cats away from a specific area.
What can’t I do?
You should not do anything to harm a cat. Under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 it is a criminal offence to cruelly beat, kick, ill-treat, torture, infuriate or terrify any animal. It is also a criminal offence under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to administer poison, injurious drugs or substances to an animal. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2005 it is a criminal offence to allow an animal protected by the act to suffer unnecessarily. Cats are protected by the Act.
A cat is treated by the law as goods and, therefore, the taking of a cat from its owner will amount to theft. You should not, therefore, steal any cat on or caught fouling on your land.