Animal sentencing Bill completes Commons stage
Animal welfare charities are celebrating a landmark move after the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill completed its final stage in the House of Commons on Friday (12 March).
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home welcomed the progress but called on the government to complete the Bill's passage in the House of Lords before the end of this parliamentary term.
The animal welfare charity launched its campaign to increase maximum prison sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years in 2017. It has since garnered the support of other welfare organisations, more than 60,000 members of the public and cross-party MPs.
The Bill was first introduced to parliament in February 2020 by Chris Loder MP - has now passed its Third Reading following a protracted delay.
Battersea’s interim chief executive, Peter Laurie, said: “It’s encouraging to see real progress being made to make five-year sentences a reality. Now the Bill moves onto the House of Lords, I urge the Government to keep up the momentum and make this the law before the end of the current parliamentary term. Any further delays are unacceptable.”
The RSPCA – which has also long-campaigned for a change – said the Welsh government is expected to put a legislative consent motion before the Welsh parliament. This means that any change in the law in England would likely apply in Wales, too.
Heidi Allen, RSPCA director of advocacy and policy, welcomed the move: “We’re thrilled that the Sentencing Bill is now one step closer to being introduced and that, soon, animals will be better protected and courts will have stronger sentences at their disposal when passing judgement on the worst animal abusers.
“We believe all parties wish to get the Bill onto the statute book in this parliamentary session - before the next Queen’s Speech which is expected in May - because MPs and Peers agree with us that no suffering animal can afford to wait another minute."
She added: “It’s time the sentences imposed on individuals who cause pain and suffering to animals reflect the severity of the crimes they are committing because current sentences available are completely inadequate.”
Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and much of Europe have already increased their maximum jail terms for animal cruelty to five years.
In England, the Bill must now clear the same stages in the House of Lords before the end of the current parliamentary term in May to pass into law.