The UK is a nation of animal lovers. Many of us have pets who are regarded as treasured members of the family and we abhor any form of cruelty towards animals.
Sadly however, not everyone takes such a humane and loving approach. Shockingly, the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals received 1,175,193 calls to their 24-hour cruelty hotline in 2018. That’s on average one call received every 27 seconds.
There have been several cases in the last few years in which the courts said they would have handed down longer sentences to perpetrators of cruelty to animals had they been available.
Recent examples include a disgraceful case 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.
There should be no place in our country for animal cruelty, which is why we want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law.
Therefore, I am delighted that the Government has now introduced the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill into Parliament, which will raise the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences from six month to five years.
This will make it one of the toughest sanctions in Europe, strengthening the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare.
The Bill follows a public consultation last year, in which the vast majority of people supported the proposals for tougher prison sentences. It means the courts will be able to take a tougher approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, or gross neglect of farm animals.
This new Bill complements Finn’s Law, which came into effect earlier this month and provides increased protection for service dogs and horses. It was named after a German shepherd police dog called Finn who was stabbed in the head and chest in 2016, while trying to catch a man suspected of robbing a taxi driver at gunpoint.
And the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill builds on the other recent positive action the Government has taken to protect animals, including plans to ban third party puppy and kitten sales and banning the use of wild animals in circuses.
The Government is completely committed to making our country the best place in the world for the care and protection of animals and we are delivering on that commitment.