Animal cruelty to be punishable by up to five years in prison
The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill will now charge those guilty of animal cruelty in England and Wales with up to five years in prison. The new bill aims to highlight the severity of animal cruelty.
The bill was approved by the Cabinet earlier today (June 26) and will see the highest sentencing being put into effect for crimes such as dog fighting, neglect of farm animals, and house pet abuse.
This new sentencing - up from the previous maximum six months - aims to put England and Wales on par with Northern Ireland, which has similar animal cruelty punishments. With this increase, parts of the UK have gone from having one of the lowest sentences in Europe to one of the highest.
This bill compliments Finn's Law, passed earlier this month to increase protection for service dogs and horses. Finn's Law is named for a police dog who was stabbed in 2016 while pursuing a subject. The approved Animal Welfare Bill now means that someone who attacks a police dog can face up to five years in prison.
Check out Finn's incredible BGT audition below:
Animal charities such as the RSPCA who advocate for our furry friends without a voice have been campaigning for a bill like this one for years.
Despite the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs passing the Animal Welfare Act in 2006 - which aimed to provide animals with an improved ethical treatment - this piece of legislation only enforced up to 51 weeks of imprisonment.
Thus, the Animal Welfare Bill has come not a moment too soon. Last week, three men from Wales were jailed for badger baiting and animal cruelty. None of them were sentenced for more than 22 weeks. When law enforcement confiscated their phones, they found several photos and texts depicting killed wildlife and injured dogs.
The RSPCA hopes that the new bill will help to enforce stricter punishment in court and reduce animal cruelty in homes across the UK. Michael Gove, Environment Secretary of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said in a statement:
"There is no place in this country for animal cruelty. That is why I want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law. Our new Bill sends a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, with the maximum five-year sentence one of the toughest punishments in Europe."
Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive for the RSPCA, said that The Animal Welfare Bill is long overdue, and that criminals need to face tougher justice:
"We need to better protect our animals and the RSPCA hopes that this new Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill will give courts the powers they need to punish those responsible for the most unimaginable cruelty to animals."
Let's hope this helps to stamp out animal cruelty once and for all.