Wildlife and animal crime can be a complex area to understand.

To find out what wildlife crime is, go to our wildlife crime page

Crimes involving animals that aren’t wildlife crimes, include:

  • livestock worrying
  • livestock theft
  • hunting
  • animal cruelty
  • dogs being out of control in public places
  • banned dogs

Livestock worrying

Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and comes under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.

‘Worrying’ is where a dog attacks or chases livestock causing injury or suffering.

This isn’t just a threat to a farmer or land owner’s livelihood, it’s also a dangerous situation for the animals involved, and could lead to more risk if the animals get onto the road.

A farmer is allowed to kill the dog if it’s worrying their livestock. 

Always keep your dog under control around other animals and if you see a dog on the loose worrying animals, report it online

Livestock theft

Grazing animals can be an easy target especially in remote rural locations.

  • check on your animal(s) regularly
  • report any suspicious vehicles
  • improve security around the area where the animal(s) graze
  • ear tags, horn brands, freeze marking, hoof branding, tattoos and microchips can all help identify your animal(s) if they’re stolen
  • in the case of cattle (cattle, bison or buffalo) you will need to report the loss or theft of an animal to the British Cattle Movement Service within seven days
  • some areas have Farm Watch schemes, which you could consider joining

Remember, a horse passport is a legal requirement. You can find out how to apply for a horse passport.

Report livestock theft online.

Poultry theft

Poultry thieves rely on people not being able to identify their property and prove ownership.

To protect your poultry, you can:

  • keep it where it's not visible from the road or public rights of way
  • join our Rural Watch scheme to be kept up to date on incidents in the area – display signs that you are in a watch scheme
  • put a good quality padlock and/or alarm on your coop and the shed where you keep feed and bedding (feed, bedding and metal containers are targets too)
  • use security lighting with passive infrared sensors and a built-in camera to pick up any movement
  • use electric fencing to deter thieves, foxes and other pests
  • keep very vocal geese and guinea fowl to act as a natural alarm system
  • take photos of your birds, including any distinguishing marks

You should mark your poultry, both as a deterrent and to identify stolen birds and prove ownership. To mark poultry you can:

  • tag wings (similar to ear tagging in sheep)
  • permanently tattoo
  • spray or mark plumage with vegetable dye
  • put closed rings on the birds' legs
  • stamp wings

Report poultry theft online.

Always report a theft, no matter how small: it may be linked to a pattern of crime or similar incidents in your area. We can't help we don't know about it.


Fox hunting

Fox hunting is illegal; trail and drag hunting (where the hunt follows an artificial scent laid out in a trail) is legal. Dogs can be used legally as part of a trail or drag hunt. 

There are exemptions under the Hunting Act 2004 which allow for wild animals (including foxes) to be ‘humanely’ killed. Dogs can be legally used to ‘flush’ a fox from cover so it can be shot.

It is an offence to:

  • engage or participate in the pursuit of a wild animal
  • use or allow a dog or dogs to pursue a wild animal
  • knowingly allow land to be entered for the purpose of hunting a fox
  • hunt foxes with dogs

If you think someone has broken the ban on fox hunting then that's a wildlife crime and you need to let us know by reporting it online.

Please also see our position on hunting with hounds.

Animal cruelty

Animal cruelty is when someone doesn’t care for or deliberately hurts an animal.

It can include anything from physical violence, to deliberate mental distress or neglect, for example not feeding or cleaning an animal.

If you see, or suspect, that a person may be treating an animal badly, whether this is physical violence, neglect or any other form of cruelty, you should report this to the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line.

You can contact them on 0300 1234 999. The call will cost the same as any call to a UK landline number. 

We work with the RSPCA to investigate cases of animal cruelty.

Dogs out of control in public places

It’s an offence to let a dog be dangerously out of control whether that’s in public or private.

A dog is considered to be out of control if it:

  • injures someone
  • makes someone worried that it might injure them

A court could also decide that your dog is dangerously out of control if:

  • it attacks someone’s animal
  • the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal

Please note, a farmer is allowed to kill your dog if it’s worrying their livestock.

If you see a dog loose, please report this online.

If the dog seems to be out of control, let us know by calling 101.

Banned dogs

In the UK, it’s against the law to own certain types of dog. These are the:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro

It’s also against the law to:

  • sell a banned dog
  • abandon a banned dog
  • give away a banned dog
  • breed from a banned dog

Whether your dog is a banned type depends on what it looks like, rather than its breed or name.

You can find more information about banned dogs.

If you think someone has or is breeding banned dogs, please report it online.

Find more information and services covering animals and pets: