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‘A clear signal to potential offenders’: tougher sentences for animal cruelty a step closer

Tougher sentences for the worst animal abusers are a step closer, as potential offenders are warned “there is no place for animal cruelty in this country”.

MPs debated the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill in the House of Commons today (3 February) where it passed the committee stage. This means the Bill will now move to the report stage, followed by a third reading at the House of Commons.

In 2017 the Government pledged to reform the maximum sentence for those prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act in England, and the Bill would mean those guilty of the most serious acts of animal cruelty will face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, up from the current six months.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said the charity is “thrilled” about today’s debate and the charity hopes MPs from across all parties will come together to pass the Bill “for the good of the animals” across England.

The Welsh government is expected to put a legislative consent motion before the Welsh parliament meaning any change in law in England would also apply in Wales. Ireland and Scotland recently increased their maximum sentences to five years.

RSPCA director of advocacy and policy Heidi Allen 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 on to the statute book in this parliamentary session, in other words before the next Queen’s Speech which is expected in May. MPs and peers agree with us that no suffering animal can afford to wait another minute.

“We believe the will exists to speed the Bill through the House of Commons and House of Lords if the Government allows time for it.”

Ms Allen added that every day the charity receives reports of “unimaginable” cruelty and neglect inflicted on animals.

“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,” she said.

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“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 the Bill through.”

Chris Loder MP said: “Today, in the House of Commons, we are one step closer to increasing tenfold the maximum custodial penalty for those who abuse animals. The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but in terms of penalties we are currently amongst the lowest.

“I am so pleased that this Bill is making progress today, sending a clear signal to potential offenders that there is no place for animal cruelty in this country.”

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