Penalty notices for animal health and welfare offences

Some dairy cows in a field

Defra is introducing a new system of penalty notices as an enforcement tool for animal health and welfare rule infringements.

Penalty notices are already used in various ways to deal with offences. One of the most recognised ways is for motoring speeding offences, where fines and driver awareness courses can be offered to speeding motorists by police authorities to discharge liability from prosecution (avoiding a criminal record).

At the moment the enforcement choices in England available to deal with breaches of animal health, biosecurity, and welfare regulations are varied, with options including advice and guidance; warning letters/statutory notices; regulatory actions; and prosecution.

One of the main mechanisms for regulatory actions within farming is through cross compliance penalties, but this regime is coming to an end in 2024. Additionally, we have seen the introduction of new animal health and welfare rules across society.

Keep up to date: Watch our Penalty notices webinar: how the future of regulatory action is changing 


In 2021, the government published an Action Plan for Animal Welfare setting out an ambition to provide regulators and enforcers with more flexible and proportionate tools to promote compliance by introducing a new system of penalty notices.

As a result, the Animals (Penalty Notices) Act was adopted in April 2022 giving powers to introduce penalty notices with a maximum penalty of £5,000 (or the maximum fine for which a person convicted of the offence is liable on summary conviction, whichever is lower), for particular animal health and welfare offences.


“We are working to influence Defra’s plans and, as well as encouraging members to take part in our consultation response, we have a Penalty notices webinar: how the future of regulatory action is changing, which will give members a chance to look at the issues, ask questions and take part in some interactive polls."

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw

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  • 25 May 2023: Government launches consultation on the proposed implementation of penalty notices for animal health and welfare offences in England only.
  • 20 June 2023: NFU seeks members’ views as part of its consultation response.
  • 20 July 2023: NFU submits its response, stating that the guidance is “lacking”.
  • 11 December 2023: Defra lays new secondary legislation