One step closer to introducing five-year sentences for animal cruelty offences

Animal welfare charities have today welcomed the long-awaited progress on crucial new legislation to increase sentences for animal cruelty offences.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill in England Wales passed its Second Reading back in October 2020 and, almost four months later, has now passed the Committee Stage of its passage through the House of Commons.

Battersea has been campaigning for many years to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years in prison – a call supported by tens of thousands of members of the public over 150 MPs from across Parliament.

Battersea’s Interim Chief Executive Peter Laurie said: “This is a significant step forward for animal welfare. It has been a long time coming and we’re encouraged to at last see headway being made in Westminster. We look forward to seeing the Bill completing its passage in this parliamentary term.”

The RSPCA is also thrilled that the Bill has passed its committee stage this week. The animal welfare charity hopes that MPs from across the parties will come together to pass the Bill for the good of animals across England.

Heidi Allen, RSPCA director of advocacy and policy, said: “We warmly welcome the news that the Bill has passed through this stage and is one step closer to becoming law. We believe all political parties are aligned in their desire to get the Bill onto the statute book in this parliamentary session – in other words before the next Queen’s Speech, which is expected in May. Because MPs and Peers agree with us that no suffering animal can afford to wait another minute. We believe that will exists to speed the Bill through the House of Commons and House of Lords if the UK Government allows time for it.

“Every day the RSPCA receives reports of unimaginable cruelty and neglect being inflicted on animals and it’s time that the sentences imposed on individuals who cause pain and suffering to animals reflect the severity of the crimes they are committing.

“The current sentences available to courts dealing with abhorrent acts of violence against animals as well as serious, organised animal crime are completely inadequate. It’s time this changed, and our courts had more power when it comes to sentencing the perpetrators of these hideous crimes. So, we implore all MPs, Peers and the Government to do everything they can to get Chris Loder’s Bill through.”

After suffering many delays and setbacks in which the previous Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill in England and Wales was subsequently dropped, the increase to maximum sentences was reintroduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Chris Loder MP in February 2020.

The Government has previously indicated that they intend to support the Bill during passage through Parliament and into law. Scotland changed their own law in July 2020.

Peter Laurie continues: “Battersea continues to speak up for animals who don’t have a voice. Currently England and Wales have amongst the lowest maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences in the world at just six months in prison – raising this to five years will better protect innocent animals in the future and make it clear that animal cruelty is a heinous crime.”

The Bill will now proceed to its final stages in the House of Commons before moving to the House of Lords.