|Cruelty sentence to increase to five years
The government has announced that it now plans to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years.
This increase in the maximum sentence follows a long running campaign by concerned individuals and groups that has included debates in parliament, private members bills and a concerted lobbying campaign by animal charities.
Previously the government had been unwilling to change its stance on the maximum sentence but in August there were signs that they were willing to move on this issue.
Claire Horton, chief executive of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home writing for the Huffington Post wrote, 'There are times in my seven years as chief executive of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home when you can really sense that positive change in important animal welfare issues is indeed achievable.'
Before the snap election Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, was trying to get a Private Members Bill through Parliament.
The Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill 2016-17
had got past its first reading and was supposed to receive its second reading on the 12 May.
As Theresa May called the snap election Parliament was dissolved and so the bill fell and no further
action was taken.
There have been a number of recent shocking cases where courts have said they would have handed down longer sentences had they been available, including a case in April last year when a man bought a number of puppies just to brutally and systematically beat, choke and stab them to death.
The new legislation will also enable courts to deal more effectively with ruthless gangs involved in organised dog fights.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, 'We are a nation of animal lovers and so we must ensure that those who commit the most shocking cruelty towards animals face suitably tough punishments.
'These plans will give courts the tools they have requested to deal with the most abhorrent acts.
'This is one part of our plan to deliver world-leading standards of animal welfare in the years ahead.'
Under the Government's plans, courts will retain the ability to hand out an unlimited fine and ban an offender from owning animals in the future but they will now be able to sentence the worst cases appropriately.
The move will bring maximum sentences for animal cruelty in England into line with other countries such as Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Claire Horton, Chief Executive of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, said, 'Battersea is thrilled that the Government plans to raise the maximum sentence for the most abhorrent cases of animal cruelty in England from six months to five years.
'This shows that the political will is there to make the punishment fit the crime and so many innocent animals will benefit from their actions.
'Battersea stands ready to help in any way we can to support this move to five year sentences and make such shocking cruelty to animals a thing of the past.'
RSPCA Head of Public Affairs David Bowles said, 'We are thrilled that the Government has responded to calls from the RSPCA and members of the public to toughen up sentences for the worst animal abusers. We now feel that those who commit these acts will soon be receiving sentences that reflect the seriousness of their crime and hope this will act as a real deterrent against cruelty and neglect.'
The government plan to publish draft legislation, perhaps based on Ms Turley's Bill, around the turn of the year.