Garden ponds and the law

If you own a pond or are planning to construct one, there are a number of laws which you should bear in mind.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Certain animals are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA 1981). These include:

  • the common frog;
  • the common toad;
  • the natterjack toad;
  • some species of newts;
  • burbot;
  • atlantic stream crayfish;
  • some species of goby;
  • northern hatchet shell;
  • marine hydroid;
  • trembling sea mat;
  • some species of snails.

Where an animal is protected under WCA 1981, subject to certain exceptions, it is a criminal offence to intentionally kill, injure or take the animal in question and this is something to bear in mind, particularly if you intend to move species between ponds or wish to fill in a pond.

It is also a criminal offence under WCA 1981, again subject to certain exceptions, to intentionally or recklessly:

  • damage or destroy any structure or place which an animal protected under WCA 1981 uses for shelter or protection; or
  • to disturb any such animal while it is occupying a structure or place which it uses for shelter or protection; or
  • to obstruct access to any structure or place which any such animal uses for shelter or protection.

It is also a criminal offence under WCA 1981, again subject to certain exceptions, to release or allow to escape into the wild certain animals set out in WCA 1981 (including European Pond Terrapins) as well as any animal which is of a kind not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state.

The Abandonment of Animals Act 1960

It is a criminal offence, under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 (AAA 1960), for the owner of an animal or someone in charge or control of an animal to without reasonable cause or excuse abandon the animal, whether permanently or not, or cause or procure it to be abandoned in circumstances likely to cause the animal any unnecessary suffering.

It is also a criminal offence under AAA 1960 for an owner of any animal to allow it to be abandoned. This should, therefore, be born in mind if you intend to release any animals currently living in your pond into the wild or into a pond belonging to another person where their consent has not been obtained.

Hosepipe bans

If there is a hosepipe ban in force in your area it is likely to include a ban on the filling and maintenance of domestic ponds using a hosepipe. Before filling up or topping up a pond you should, therefore, check whether there is a hosepipe ban in force in your area and if there is, you should check what the extent of the ban is. A person who contravenes a hosepipe ban may be prosecuted through the criminal courts and, if found guilty, could be fined.

Safety issues

If you have a pond in your garden you are responsible for ensuring that it does not present a hazard to others, including any visitors to your property. For this reason it may be sensible to cover your pond, particularly if young children are likely to access your garden.

Escape of water

If you have a pond in your garden and it leaks onto neighbouring land you will be responsible for any damage or loss suffered as a consequence of the leak.