Caring for pets

You must provide proper care to any animal you keep as a pet.

You may get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to 6 months if you don’t look after an animal properly. You may also be banned from owning animals in future.

How to care for your pet

You must make sure that any animal you own or care for:

  • has a proper diet and fresh water
  • has somewhere suitable to live
  • is kept with or away from other animals, depending on its needs
  • is allowed to express itself and behave normally
  • is protected from, and treated for, illness and injury

You must be over 16 years old to buy an animal.


You may need to get a licence from your local council for:

  • some types of exotic wild animals
  • domestic-wild hybrid animals
  • running a business like a riding stables or pet shop

Contact your local council to apply for a licence or to check if you need one. You must get the licence before you get the animal.

You don’t need a licence for most common domestic pets.

Report cruelty to animals

England or Wales

Contact the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to report someone neglecting or being cruel to an animal in England or Wales.

RSPCA 24-hour cruelty and advice line
0300 1234 999
24-hour service
Find out about call charges


Contact the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA):

SSPCA animal helpline
03000 999 999
7am to 11pm
Find out about call charges

You’ll be asked to give a detailed description of what you’ve seen or heard. You don’t have to give your personal details if you don’t want to.