CELEBRITIES and animal lovers have hailed a landmark change in the law this week that sees the maximum sentence for the most shocking offences of animal cruelty increase from six months to five years in prison, following a hard-fought Battersea campaign.
The leading animal welfare charity, which has led calls for stronger sentences since 2017 after revealing fly-tippers could receive significantly heftier sentences than animal abusers, has welcomed the news, along with campaign supporters Paul O’Grady and Ricky Gervais.
Battersea’s crusade – which gained universal support from nearly 80,000 members of the public and MPs from across Parliament – saw the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, introduced by Chris Loder MP back in February 2019, passed its Third Reading in the House of Lords this week.
Battersea’s Chief Executive, Peter Laurie, said:
“At Battersea, our staff know all too well the horrific suffering abusers can inflict on innocent animals. When we discovered England and Wales had the lowest maximum sentence for cruelty in Europe, we said enough is enough and launched our campaign. Thanks to the unwavering support of everyone who stood with us to speak up for animals who have no voice of their own, we’ve changed the future for animals in this country, and now the punishment for these horrendous acts of cruelty can finally fit the crime. Parliament has sent a clear message – we will not tolerate animal abuse in this country.
“We can’t thank our supporters enough. Battersea is here for every dog and cat – not just those that come through our centres, but across the UK and beyond.”
It means animals like Ralph – an emaciated German Shepherd found wandering the streets in London and taken into Battersea’s care – will be better protected in the future.
Now happy and healthy, Ralph was rehomed to Wendy Tung. She said:
“From now on, anyone who could even think to inflict harm on an innocent animal needs to know they could be serving a lengthy prison sentence. I really think this should act as a powerful deterrent, preventing any more animals suffering in the way Ralph and countless other cruelty victims have done.”
Battersea Ambassador, Paul O’Grady, said:
“Four years ago, Battersea launched its campaign calling for tougher sentences for acts of animal cruelty. At the time, the longest possible sentence for even the most terrible crimes was just six months.
“I’m delighted that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has been passed into law, successfully realising the ambition of Battersea’s Not Funny campaign, which was launched in 2017.”
Friend of Battersea, Ricky Gervais, said:
“Thanks to Battersea, justice will finally be served to anyone who perpetuates animal cruelty and a proper punishment brought in – one that I hope will serve as a deterrent to anyone who would contemplate harming an innocent creature. This week is a great week for animals everywhere.”
After the Government first pledged to raise sentences in Autumn 2017, the path to becoming law has been complicated. Previous Bills to introduce the change in the law in England and Wales suffered many delays and setbacks, including the last Government Bill, which fell when Parliament was dissolved before the General Election in 2019. The proposal was brought back as a Private Member’s Bill by Chris Loder MP in February 2020.
Battersea also campaigned successfully on this issue in Scotland. The Scottish Government passed the law to raise maximum sentences from 12 months to five years in July 2020, bringing the law north of the border in line with that in Northern Ireland.
For more information, please visit: https://notfunny.battersea.org.uk/.
Read Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in England and Wales.