Animal charities "delighted" at tougher cruelty sentences

After years of campaigning, animal welafre charities are expressing their relief as the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has been passed.

The RSPCA is overjoyed at the passing of the Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill.

Now that the Bill has completed all stages in the Houses of Parliament and has received Royal Assent, animal abusers convicted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 could face up to five years in prison, rising from just six months imprisonment.

Welcoming the passing into law of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill on Thursday, Cats Protection’s Field Veterinary Officer for Lincolnshire, Naomi Williams, said: “Cats Protection is delighted that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has now become law in England, which is an important step in ensuring we are one of the world leaders on animal welfare issues.

"We are a nation of cat lovers, yet all too often they are subjected to horrific cruelty. Not only does this cause immense suffering, it can leave cats with lifelong physical injuries and psychological problems. Sadly, we regularly hear of heartbreaking cases where cats have died after suffering deliberate attacks including mutilation, shooting or poisoning.

"This new law reflects the views of the majority of the public which takes animal welfare seriously and will not tolerate the abuse of defenseless animals."

Vet professionals all over the county have been expressing their delight and relief at the news.

Robert Sturch, Hospital Manager, Blue Cross Animal Hospital in Grimsby, described the news as a "major step forward for animal welfare" in England and Wales.

He said: "Blue Cross has campaigned for this law, in coalition with other animal welfare charities, for a number of years and we are delighted it is finally reaching the statute book.

"The law should send a message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated and will now be punished appropriately. We also hope it will act as a more effective deterrent to anybody seeking to abuse or neglect animals.”

In a statement following the news, RSPCA chief executive, Chris Sherwood, said: "This Act is a huge step forward for animal welfare in the UK and we're delighted that justice will now be served for animals. Tougher sentences will act as a stronger deterrent to potential animal abusers and will help us in our aim to cancel out animal cruelty once and for all.

"This reform is long overdue - for many years, the most violent and horrific abuse and cruelty received a maximum penalty of just a few months. We're proud to have some of the best standards of animal welfare in the world but custodial sentences have long been letting us down.

"Every year our officers are faced with cases of the most unimaginable cruelty: animals beaten, stabbed, shot and burned; unwanted or elderly pets being drowned; wild animals shot with crossbows or set on fire; gangs forcing cockerels to fight to the death and breeders cutting off puppies' ears to make them look tough.

"Since the bill was introduced, animals have been starved, shot, stabbed, beaten to death and drowned. At least now, in those cases that leave us heartbroken, our courts will be able to hand out sentences that truly reflect the severity of the crimes.

"We'd like to thank all of the politicians who supported the bill - particularly MP Chris Loder and Lord Randall of Uxbridge - and all of the charities and organisations who have championed the act."