Animal cruelty maximum sentences will be increased

Animal abusers who commit the most heinous crimes will face up to five years in jail after draft legislation set out by Environment Secretary Michael Gove gained strong support from welfare groups and the public.

Currently the maximum sentence is six months but following a consultation the government has today confirmed it will legislate to increase that tenfold for serious offences, sending a clear sign there is no place for animal cruelty in England.

The draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentence) Bill was put out to consultation in December 2017.

The plans to increase maximum sentences follow a number of shocking cases where courts have said they would have handed down longer sentences had they been available.

These include a case last year when a man trained dogs to ruthlessly torture other animals, including trapping a fox and a terrier dog in a cage to brutally attack each other.

The move has been strongly welcomed by animal welfare groups and follows dedicated campaigning from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton, said: “Battersea welcomes the results of today’s consultation as they confirm the nation is no longer prepared to put up with a six-month sentence for shocking cases of cruelty to animals. We believe a five-year maximum sentence is far more appropriate and to the credit of the government they have listened. We look forward to seeing the Bill laid before Parliament this year.”

The RSPCA also welcome the news, but are concerned about the little time left to introduce the Bill before Brexit.

RSPCA Head of Public Affairs David Bowles said: “We are pleased that Defra has agreed with the RSPCA that the Bills relating to sentencing for animal cruelty and animal sentience should be separate. We welcome the proposed Bill to increase sentencing for animal cruelty and neglect from six months to five years by amending Section 32 of the Animal Welfare Act, as well as the introduction of a separate sentience Bill.

“However, as there are less than eight months to go before we leave the EU, we are concerned that time is running out for the Sentience Bill to be introduced and agreed before Brexit.”

These plans are said to be part of a wider programme of reform the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare.