Wildlife legislation has evolved in the UK to promote the conservation of certain species. It generally prevents
the deliberate killing, injuring or taking of a protected wild animal, and puts in place provisions for protected
animals to be taken, for specific purposes, and/or at specific times. Although there have been Acts protecting
some game species, the first main piece of conservation legislation in the UK was the Protection of
Wild Birds Act 1954, revised in 1967.
Over time, it became apparent that other species required protection and the Conservation of Wild Creatures
and Wild Plants Act 1975 came into being. It was then felt that these pieces of legislation should be consolidated
into one new piece of legislation, and so the Wildlife and Countryside Act was born in 1981.
European legislation has also been an important driver of domestic legislation; the Conservation of Wild Birds
(Birds Directive) (79/409/EEC) and the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Directive 1992 (Habitats Directive) (92/43/EEC) are relevant and have been enacted in the UK.
There is some legislation that deals primarily with welfare of wild animals as opposed to conservation and these
are detailed below. There are no specific licences required for wildlife rehabilitation, but there are some licensing issues related to keeping and releasing of rehabilitated wildlife of which all rehabilitators should be aware.
This page provides a summary of the legislation that is pertinent to wildlife rehabilitation. It is recommended that
you should refer back to original legislation for clarification, and the subsequent amendments.
The BWRC would recommend the following website: http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/ and although we would state
that the legislation listed may not always be up-to-date, this website does display each act with the relevant amendments, as and when they appear.
Further information on wildlife legislation and licences etc. can also be found at:
http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/regulation/default.aspx for England;
http://www.ccw.gov.uk/landscape--wildlife/habitats--species.aspx for Wales;
http://www.snh.org.uk/about/ab-ourwork.asp for Scotland.
Following devolution, it should be remembered that some aspects of licensing may vary in Wales,
while Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legislation and that is also detailed below.
Click on the Act (summary) that you wish to view.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010
Deer Act 1991
Conservation of Seals Act 1970
Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996
Animal Welfare Act 2006
Welfare of Animals During Transport Order 2006
Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932
Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 (COTES)
Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (as amended)
Protection of Animals (Anaesthetics) Acts 1954 & 1964
Zoo Licensing Act 1981
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