Tougher sentences for the worst animal abusers have moved a step closer as the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill makes progress through parliament.
The Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday (23 October), backed by the Government.
The Bill would mean those guilty of the most serious acts of animal cruelty in England and Wales will face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, up from the current six months.
It is not the first time it has started its progress through parliament; the most recent attempt was brought to a halt when the general election was called last autumn, but the Bill was reintroduced in February by West Dorset MP Chris Loder.
Mr Loder said: “It is high time as a nation that we take the lead on global standards for animal welfare and hand down tougher custodial sentences for those who inflict the worst kinds of cruelty on innocent animals.
“My Bill, which I’m pleased has cross-party support and is fully endorsed by the RSPCA and other animal welfare charities, delivers a strong message to animal abusers that their behaviour will no longer be tolerated. We need to get it on the statute book and send a clear signal to potential offenders there is no place for animal cruelty in this country.”
The Bill follows a public consultation in 2017, in which more than 7% of respondents were in favour of tougher punishments for animal abuse.
Animal welfare minister Lord Goldsmith said: “There is no place for animal cruelty in this country and this crucial piece of legislation will bring in more stringent sentences for animal abusers who commit the most heinous crimes, cementing our role as a global leader in animal welfare.
‘We implore the government to clearly show its animal welfare credentials by getting this bill on to the statute book
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“I would like to thank Chris Loder MP for introducing this vital Bill. We will do all we can to support its swift passage through Parliament.”
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said the charity is “thrilled” the Bill has passed this stage.
“Tougher sentencing would give courts more flexibility to impose longer prison terms on those people guilty of the most serious offences to better reflect the severity of the crimes and to act as a stronger deterrent to others,” he said.
The Bill will now go to the committee stage, then the report stage and third reading, after which it will go before the House of Lords.
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