TAUNTON Deane MP Rebecca Pow has welcomed the Animal Welfare (Sentencing Bill), which will allow tougher penalties for animal cruelty

Longer prison sentences for animal cruelty come into force this summer after the Bill received Royal Assent this week.

This means that the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty will be raised from six months to five years from June 29.

The new maximum penalty will enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals. As well as a prison sentence, offenders can also receive an unlimited fine.

The more stringent sentences will be some of the toughest in Europe. The Act will help ensure courts are able to enforce extended penalties for those who cruelly mistreat any animal, sending a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated.

A public consultation in 2017 received over 9,000 responses and showed strong public support for proposals on tougher sentences. The measure is also widely supported by animal welfare groups including the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. The Private Members Bill was introduced by Chris Loder MP in February 2020 and with the full support of the Government has now passed into law.

Ms Pow said: “This is a much needed and welcome piece of legislation. Treating animals cruelly is unacceptable and this tough increase in possible sentencing signals that this will not be tolerated. I worked long and hard as a backbencher to raise this issue and I am delighted that the Government has supported Dorset MP Chris Loder to see this Private Members Bill become law.”

New legislation to protect service animals, known as ‘Finn’s Law’, came into force in June 2019 and prevents those who attack or injure service animals from claiming self-defence. The law is named after Finn, a police dog who was stabbed whilst pursuing a suspect with his handler PC David Wardell. Finn sustained serious stab wounds to the chest and head, but only criminal damage charges could be brought against his attacker.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act, coupled with ‘Finn’s Law’, ensures that those who harm either service or any other animals are punished accordingly.