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Calls for Britain to step up after Scotland increases animal abuse sentences

The maximum jail tern for animal abusers in Scotland has been increased to five years — as pressure mounts on England to follow suit.

The new legislation was granted royal assent on Tuesday (21 July), which means it has passed all stages to become law. It increases the maximum prison sentence from 12 months to five years.

“The focus now shifts to Westminster and the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which was introduced in February,” said a statement from animal charity Battersea, which campaigned for the law.

“The second reading date for the Bill has been postponed a number of times and is not scheduled until 23 October. This is despite the bill having huge cross-party support, and the government first pledging its support for a change in the law in England and Wales three years ago.

“Together, we’ll make sure that Westminster follows Scotland’s lead. We know the political support is there — it’s time to get this over the line.”

The new Scottish law also means charities can start the rehoming process sooner and encourages sharing of intelligence with authorities to help prevent and address cruelty towards humans. It also incorporates Finn’s Law, which came into force in England and Wales in 2019, and means self-defence can no longer be used as an excuse used by those who harm working animals.

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The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill covering England and Wales has been introduced twice previously, but stalled owing to parliamentary reasons. If successful, it will increase maximum prison sentences from six months to five years for the most serious offenders.

It had been scheduled for the report stage in the House of Commons in September 2019, but was dropped owing to the dissolution of parliament in the run-up to the general election.

It was re-introduced as a private member’s bill by West Dorset MP Chris Loder in February this year, with the second reading originally set for 12 June.

But delays as a result of the coronavirus pandemic meant it was again delayed in May to 11 September — and it has now been pushed back yet again to October.

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