Iain O’Donnell acts for the RSPCA in appeal on the definition of ‘animal fighting’ – RSPCA v McCormick & Ors [2016] EWHC 928.

The RSPCA sought clarification from the Divisional Court on the nature of the activities captured under section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This case stated appeal resulted from the prosecution of a group calling itself ‘The Devon Destroyers’, which took hunting dogs into the countryside and caused them to enter into violent interactions with various wild animals, some of which fought back when cornered.

The Divisional Court found that the key element required to meet the definition of ‘animal fight’, as set out in section 8(7) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, was that a protected animal (in this case the group’s dogs) be ‘placed with’ the other animal (the wild animals) ‘for the purpose of fighting’. This required (a) proximity, in the sense that the other animal had to be present (rather than hunted or chased before the fight), and (b) that there be some element of control of the other animal that would prevent its escape.

The RSPCA’s position is that this interpretation is considerably more restrictive in terms of the types of nuisance that it captures than was intended by Parliament (not least because it effectively ignores the fact that ‘animal fight’ as defined in section 8(7) includes provision for a fight between a protected animal and a human). The judgment can be found here: RSPCA v McCormick & ors [2016] EWHC 928.