The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill in England and Wales calls for an increase in the maximum sentence a person can receive for cruelty to animals. Currently, the maximum sentence for animal abuse is just six months. But, with this bill, offenders of these abhorrent acts will receive up to five years in prison.
It has not been an easy road for the Bill, which previously failed to pass through UK Parliament back in 2019. However, we were delighted to see the Bill reintroduced in February 2020 as a Private Member’s Bill by Chris Loder MP.
The Bill took just over one year to pass through the House of Commons and its speedy journey through the House of Lords is most welcome. With no amendments required thus far, we are celebrating the Bill passing its final reading today and reaching the Queen for Royal Assent!
What does this mean for animals?
The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill will give the courts the power to hand-out harsher sentences for the mistreatment and abuse of puppies and kittens, gross neglect of farm animals and other animal abuse cases such as cock fighting. Currently, if found guilty, abusers may only receive a short jail sentence and a limited ban on animal ownership, even when the evidence of negligent animal ownership is obvious. With this Bill, England and Wales will go from having amongst the lowest maximum sentences for animal abuse, to holding some of the toughest penalties for animal abuse across Europe.
What happens next?
The Bill will be sent to the monarch for Royal Assent and become an official law. In Wales, it is understood that the Welsh Government will soon put forward a case to ensure that any new changes to the law will apply in both England and Wales. Northern Ireland and Scotland have already increased their maximum sentences to five years. This final step by England and Wales will mean that once again the UK will have a unified and appropriate response to animal sentencing.
We must be the voice for animals. Innocent animal lives are subject to cruelty and abuse every day, and these heinous crimes cannot be tolerated. We strive to #LiveKinder, and with this Bill we can stand together and show the world that we will not allow animal cruelty to endure.