The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which aims to increase the maximum jail sentence for the worst cases of animal cruelty in England and Wales from six months to five years, is one step closer to becoming law.
After passing its Second Reading in October 2020, this morning (Wednesday 3 February) the Bill has cleared the Committee Stage of its passage through the House of Commons. Scotland raised its maximum sentences for animal cruelty in July 2020 with the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill, and it is hoped that England and Wales will follow suit as quickly as possible.
Battersea’s Interim Chief Executive, Peter Laurie, said, “This is a significant step forward for animal welfare. It has been a long time coming and we’re encouraged to at last see headway being made in Westminster. We look forward to seeing the Bill completing its passage in this parliamentary term.”
He added, “Battersea continues to speak up for animals who don’t have a voice. Currently England and Wales have amongst the lowest maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences in the world at just six months in prison – raising this to five years will better protect innocent animals in the future and make it clear that animal cruelty is a heinous crime.”
The Bill has suffered several delays and setbacks since it was announced in 2017. The previous Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill in England and Wales was first left in a limbo following the suspension of Parliament in September, and then fell again as a new Parliament was formed following the 2019 general election.
The Bill was brought back as a Private Member’s Bill by Chris Loder MP in February 2020, and will now be moving on to its final stages in the House of Commons before moving to the House of Lords.