ANIMAL abusers who commit wicked crimes will soon face up to five years in jail.
Draft legislation set out by environment secretary Michael Gove has gained strong support from welfare groups and the public.
Currently the maximum sentence is six months, but following a consultation the government has today confirmed it will legislate to increase that tenfold for serious offences, sending a ‘clear sign’ there is no place for animal cruelty in England.
Animal welfare minister, Lord Gardiner, said: ‘This government is making good on its commitment to make the UK a world leader in the care and protection of animals as we leave the EU.
‘Our proposals to raise maximum sentences for animal abusers attracted strong support. We will now legislate so courts have the power to punish offenders properly.
‘We will also continue to work with welfare organisations to ensure that animal sentience is properly recognised in our legislation once we have left the EU.’
The plans follow a number of shocking cases where courts have said they would have handed down longer sentences had they been available.
These include a case last year when a man trained dogs to ruthlessly torture other animals, including trapping a fox and a terrier dog in a cage to brutally attack each other.
Last month, magistrates sentenced Barry Shaw to 16 weeks in prison for kicking Chihuahua Coco ‘near to death’ in April. He was given this sentence for other crimes too, including stealing and abusive behaviour.
The draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill was put out for consultation in December 2017.
The news has been welcomed by animal welfare groups and follows dedicated campaigning from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
Its chief executive Claire Horton said: ‘Battersea welcomes the results of the consultation as they confirm the nation is no longer prepared to put up with a six month sentence for shocking cases of cruelty to animals.
‘We believe a five year maximum sentence is far more appropriate and to the credit of the government they have listened. We look forward to seeing the bill laid before parliament this year.’
The government is also supporting the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill, introduced to parliament by Sir Oliver Heald MP. It will ensure service animals such as police dogs and horses will be offered greater protection.
The proposed legislation will remove a section of the current law of self-defence, often used by those who harm a service animal in the process of committing a crime.
The government said these plans are part of a wider programme of reform to cement the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare. This includes making CCTV mandatory in all English slaughterhouses and taking steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter as the UK leaves the EU.