United Kingdom

Animal abusers face tougher punishment as MPs support increasing maximum sentence

Harsher sentences for animal abusers moved a step closer yesterday as MPs backed a change in the law.

The Animal Welfare Bill, which would raise the maximum sentence for animal cruelty ten-fold from six months in prison to five years, passed its second Commons reading.

Tory MP Chris Loder, who introduced the Bill, said he was inspired to do so after a mistreated springer spaniel he found abandoned by a road became his family pet.

Discussing the four-year-old dog called Poppy, Mr Loder said: 'She had clearly been mistreated – her pads were red raw, there were cuts to her leg, she had nasty growths and she needed three teeth removed.' 

The Animal Welfare Bill, which would raise the maximum sentence for animal cruelty ten-fold from six months in prison to five years, passed its second Commons reading. (Above, Tory MP Chris Loder, who introduced the Bill)

He added: 'A mere six months discourages no one. So we must establish... a much tougher maximum penalty.' 

Environment minister Victoria Prentis was among those to support the Bill, describing it as 'absolutely necessary'.

She told MPs: 'This Bill has the full support of the Government and we will do all we can to support its swift passage without amendment through the Commons and the Lords as soon as we possibly can.'

Labour also backed the legislation, with shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner pressing for no further delays.

He said: 'There is a correlation between animal cruelty and domestic violence.

'I'm told women in domestic violence shelters are 11 times more likely to report that a partner had hurt or killed a pet.'

Environment minister Victoria Prentis (pictured) was among those to support the Bill, describing it as 'absolutely necessary'

Conservative Sarah Atherton (Wrexham) also gave a warning about the increasing number of dog and cat adoptions during the pandemic.

Ms Atherton told MPs: 'Preparing for today I spoke to vets in my constituency of Wrexham. 

'They tell me they are currently concerned about what is termed as "Covid pups" – and I take the opportunity to highlight, on their behalf, a dog is for life, not just for a lockdown.

'My local vets have raised concerns about dogs purchased since March. 

'These pets have not had the opportunity to be raised and socialised in the wider community but in a solitary household.

'Let's hope we don't see an increase in abuse and abandonment of pets due to possible behavioural problems or the cost of looking after pets as Covid restrictions continue.'

Responding to the debate, Ms Prentis added: 'On live animal exports, we have a manifesto commitment to end long journeys to slaughter and fattening.

'We will be launching a public consultation, I am very, very pleased to say, later this year.'

The Bill will undergo further scrutiny at a later date. 

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