I am delighted to see that the Conservative Government will soon be publishing a consultation on draft legislation, to increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years. This is a ten-fold increase and as well as giving a much greater punishment for severe offences, it should also help act as a deterrent to animal cruelty.
We are a nation of animal lovers and we Conservatives are keen to maintain and enhance the UK’s reputation as a global leader on animal welfare. We know that the vast majority of people do responsibly look after the animals in their care, but sadly there is a very small minority who treat animals in a cruel and inhumane way. Those people who commit the most shocking cruelty against animals should face a suitable punishment, rather than just a few weeks in prison as a maximum punishment. There have been a small number of extreme and horrible cases where courts have been frustrated that only a maximum of six months imprisonment has been available.
This policy has widespread support including from the RSPCA who have campaigned for this move, which brings England into line with Northern Ireland where this is already law. This follows other policies that enhance protection for domestic animals and pets. These include making CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses, and the compulsory microchipping for all dogs in England, which is helping to reunite owners with lost or stolen pets. This also helps to relieve the burden on animal charities and local councils, and helps to protect the welfare of dogs by promoting responsible ownership. We recently had a good news story about a dog that had been stolen in London that was found in Crawley and reunited with its owner, thanks to it being microchipped.
The Government have also confirmed plans this year, to tighten up laws around selling pets and breeding dogs, making it completely illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks old and to require anyone breeding and selling three or more litters of puppies a year to apply for a formal licence.