I am dismayed that the Government is dragging its heels on the introduction of tougher sentences for animal cruelty offences.
At the start of 2017, I wrote to the then Policing Minister, Brandon Lewis, twice about the need for tougher sentences for animal cruelty. Firstly, in the context of Finn’s Law, which objected to the fact that Police animals injured or killed in the line of duty were treated as property, with the crime for attacking a Police animal being ‘criminal damage’, and secondly, in light of a campaign by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, which highlighted how lenient the UK’s animal cruelty laws are in comparison to other countries around the world.
Currently, the maximum sentence, in England and Wales, for even the most serious offences is only 6 months imprisonment, a ban from keeping an animal, and a fine. This pales in comparison to five years for fly tipping and seven years for theft.
I was therefore pleased to hear in September 2017 that the Government would increase the maximum custodial sentence for animal cruelty in England to five years imprisonment. The Government put this policy out to consultation in December 2017, with the result being that there was widespread support for the change.
I am disappointed that, two years on, the necessary legislation has still not been introduced.
David Rutley, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Food and Animal Welfare, has been asked about the time-frame for implementing the new animal sentencing legislation on several occasions and continues to refer back to the answer he gave in March, where he says that the new sentences will be introduced “as soon as Parliamentary time allows.”
I can assure you that my colleagues and I will continue to call on the Government to introduce tougher animal cruelty sentences, and I hope that we do not have to wait too long for the Government to take action.