New Government Bill Increases Maximum Sentence for Animal Cruelty

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Jun 26, 2019

New Government Bill Increases Maximum Sentence for Animal Cruelty

Legislation has been set out to increase the maximum sentences for animal cruelty, thanks to strong support from welfare groups and the public

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill will today be introduced to Parliament, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced. The bill will allow for tougher prison sentences for the worst animal abusers.

Under the new bill, animal abusers could face up to five years in prison. Current maximum sentencing guidelines allow just six months in prison. The introduction of tougher sentences will see the UK impose some of the toughest sanctions in Europe.

The new bill follows a 2018 public consultation. 70% of people supported tougher prison sentences. Courts will now be able to take a tougher stance on cases such as abuse of puppies and kittens, gross neglect of farm animals, and dogfighting.

Michael Gove commented; “There is no place in this country for animal cruelty. That is why I want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law. Our new Bill sends a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, with the maximum five-year sentence one of the toughest punishments in Europe.

“I am committed to making our country the best place in the world for the care and protection of animals.”

During recent years, courts have expressed that they would have handed down longer sentences across a number of cases if they had been able to. Animal Welfare Minister, David Rutley, shared his thoughts;

“These increased maximum sentences will act as a serious deterrent against cruelty and neglect in the future. This step builds on recent positive action we have taken to protect animals, including plans to ban third-party puppy and kitten sales and banning the use of wild animals in circuses.”

During 2018, the RSPCA received nearly 1.2 million calls to their 24-hour cruelty hotline, averaging at one call every 27 seconds. Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive for the RSPCA said:

“This reform is long overdue. Those responsible for extreme cruelty towards animals or those criminal gangs involved in organised animal crime will now face the tough justice they deserve.

We need to better protect our animals and the RSPCA hopes that this new Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill will give courts the powers they need to punish those responsible for the most unimaginable cruelty to animals.”

Chief Executive of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Claire Horton, spoke about the impact of tougher prison sentences.

“We, and many other rescue centres, see shocking cases of cruelty and neglect come through our gates and there are many more animals that are dumped and don’t even make it off the streets. Research shows that tougher prison sentences act as a deterrent to would-be criminals, so today’s announcement should prevent the suffering of many animals in the future.”

To discover more about animal welfare and find out how you can make a difference, visit

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