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Assessment of the unnecessary suffering offence
  1. Mike Radford
  1. School of Law, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UB; e-mail:

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I WRITE further to the recent discussion concerning the nature of the unnecessary suffering offence, following the paper by Baumgaertner and colleagues (2016) and Editorial by Morton (2016) (Letters, VR, November 5, 2016, vol 179, p 468; November 12, 2016, vol 179, p 496; November 19, 2016, vol 179, p 524).

First, there has been some criticism, especially in relation to exotics, that the prosecution needs to demonstrate a degree of recognition on the part of the accused that an animal is suffering before the offence is committed, the concern being that even a responsible owner may not possess sufficient knowledge.

However, the offence does not exist in isolation. It is complemented by the duty imposed on those who assume responsibility for an animal to ensure its welfare (Anon 2006a, b, Anon 2011a). This positive obligation is intended to prevent suffering and to promote a good quality of life. The scope of the responsibility is wide and extends not only to providing adequate care but, by implication, also to taking advice and obtaining relevant information to be able to do so. It is regrettable that the nature of this legal duty is not better publicised, not least in the waiting room of veterinary practices.

Second, where suffering has occurred, those responsible may be held to account by virtue of the unnecessary …

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