Tougher sentences for animal abusers a step closer

A new bill proposing tougher sentences for animal abusers is to start its journey through parliament today (Wednesday).

Environmental secretary Michael Gove has announced the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which increases the maximum prison sentence for abusers from six months to five years.

The proposals were first announced as part of a draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill, which also included plans to “ensure animal sentience is reflected in domestic law when we leave the EU”.

But following feedback, while work on sentience was to continue, the government made sentencing the subject of a separate bill. In a public consultation, more than 70% of respondents backed tougher sentences.

“There is no place in this country for animal cruelty,” said environment secretary Michael Gove.

“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.

“I am committed to making our country the best place in the world for the care and protection of animals.”

There have also been a number of cases in the last few years in which courts have said they would have handed down longer sentences to abusers, had they been available.

“These increased maximum sentences will act as a serious deterrent against cruelty and neglect in the future,” said animal welfare minister David Rutley.

“This step builds on recent positive action we have taken to protect animals.”

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The proposals complement Finn’s Law, which came into force this month and under which it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to a service animal, such as police dogs and horses. If passed, the bill would mean someone who attacks a police horse could face five years in prison.

The bill will move through the House of Commons, then the House of Lords, after which, if passed, it will go for royal assent, and then come into effect.

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