The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has passed into law in a ‘huge step forward’ for animal welfare.
The Bill completed all its stages in the Houses of Parliament and has now received Royal Assent meaning animal abusers convicted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 could face up to five years in prison.
Although the Bill has now become law, it is expected to come into force later this year – a move for which animal welfare groups and MPs have long campaigned.
Andrew Gwynne MP said:
“I am delighted this important Bill has made it into law. It’s right that animal welfare laws here in England and Wales should be as strong as they are in the rest of the United Kingdom, with tougher sentences to deter acts of animal cruelty. I’m proud to have supported this long overdue law change.”
The new law brings us in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland where convicted animal abusers can be jailed for up to five years.
The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act is set to cover both England and Wales, once the Senedd for Wales passes a legislative consent motion – which the Welsh Government supports.
The RSPCA – the principal investigator of animal neglect and cruelty in England and Wales – has been campaigning for tougher sentencing, alongside its colleagues in the animal welfare sector, for years.
Chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “This law is a huge step forward for animal welfare in the UK and we’re delighted that justice will now be served for animals. Tougher sentences will act as a stronger deterrent to potential animal abusers and will help us in our aim to stamp out animal cruelty once and for all.
“Every year our officers are faced with cases of the most unimaginable cruelty: animals beaten, stabbed, shot and burned; unwanted or elderly pets being drowned; wild animals shot with crossbows or set on fire; gangs forcing cockerels to fight to the death; and breeders cutting off puppies’ ears to make them look tough.
“Since this Bill was introduced animals have been starved, shot, stabbed, beaten to death and drowned. At least now, in those cases that leave us heartbroken, our courts will be able to hand out sentences that truly reflect the severity of the crimes.”
For more about what this law will mean for animals, visit rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/sentencing.