Animal cruelty may result in cruel prison sentences

Hunting hounds looking through a barn on a farm.
The League Against Cruel Sports
The maximum sentence for the most serious animal cruelty could be raised from six months to five years.

We see horrendous acts of cruelty perpetrated on animals. 

People who are cruel to animals could face up to five years in prison under a new law which has been backed by the government.

The proposed legislation would increase the maximum sentence for the most serious animal cruelty from six months to five years, allowing courts to be tougher on crimes such as dog fighting, cruel treatment of pets and gross neglect of farm animals.

The Animals Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, has been introduced as a Private Members Bill by Conservative MP Chris Loder, who said he was inspired to take action by his own dog who he found abandoned on the roadside.


The introduction of the Bill, which is supported by the government, follows a public consultation in 2017 which found 70 percent of people backed tougher sentences for animal cruelty.

Mr Loder said he was shocked to learn that the RSPCA investigated more than 130,700 complaints of cruelty against animals and secured 1,678 convictions last year.

"I believe tougher sentencing will act as a greater deterrent against the worst examples of animal cruelty.

"We are renowned as a nation of animal lovers and Britain needs to lead the world on animal welfare legislation.

"Indeed I rescued my own dog Poppy; a springer spaniel, who was abandoned as a puppy at the roadside, and she is part of the inspiration for me introducing this Bill," he said.


Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "There is no place in this country for animal cruelty, which is why I am delighted the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill is being introduced to Parliament to raise prison terms for the worst abusers.

"It is a crucial piece of legislation which will help deter criminals and will ensure robust and appropriate action is taken if they are found guilty."

The RSPCA said it was pleased a new Bill was being introduced after false starts in trying to get the legislation on the statute book last year.

The animal welfare charity's chief executive Chris Sherwood said: "We see horrendous acts of cruelty perpetrated on animals and have long campaigned for the current maximum six-month jail term to be increased to five years.

"The Bill has come so close to being enacted in the past - let's not allow this important change to animal cruelty sentencing to slip through our hands."

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Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.

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