UK Bill Raise Punishment For Animal Cruelty Offenders; Adds To New Laws Against Animal Cruelty

A new law proposed in England and Wales will increase jail time of up to five years for guilty offenders of animal cruelty. The maximum term was raised from six months. 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove sponsored the parliamentary bill named Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill. 

“There is no place in this country for animal cruelty,” says Mr. Gove. “That is why I want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with [the] full force of the law.”

According to last year’s public consultation, 70% of respondents call for longer prison sentences related to animal cruelty. Many are grateful for the bill such as Chief executive of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Claire Horton.

She says, “We, and many other rescue centers, 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.”

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary also responded favorably in a statement released today. She says, “It has taken the Government far too long to bring forward this crucial legislation. Judges have been asking for tougher sentences for people who cruelly abuse animals for some time.”

Among the cases that will receive severe punishments are dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, and gross neglect of farm animals. 

The new legislation adds to the recent actions that the government has enacted to protect animals such as Finn’s Law, Lucy’s Law, and the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill

Finn’s Law 

Finn’s Law, also known as the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act, has taken effect earlier this month. The new law has increased sentences for any harm committed against a service animal. 

The law was named after a police dog named Finn, who appeared in Britain’s Got Talent. In 2016, the German shepherd was stabbed in the chest and the head while protecting Police Constable Dave Wardwell from an attack. 

PC Wardwell and Finn were responding to a robbery report when a 16-year-old boy came running with a 12-inch knife. Responding to the possible danger against PC Wardwell, Finn lunged himself towards the attacker only to sustain life-threatening wounds in the chest. Finn further blocked a second attack aimed at PC Wardwell’s upper body. 

PC Wardwell sustained minor injuries from the attack. Finn was rushed to the veterinary and had to undergo four hours of surgery. According to reports, the attacker’s knife narrowly missed his heart. 

Prior to Finn’s law, the attack on a service animal would only be considered as a criminal damage, a far lesser sentence. Judges have been having a difficult time in placing value on “property” where service animals were involved. 

In 2018, Finn received a Gold Medal from Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a veterinary charity in the UK. 

Lucy’s Law

Meanwhile, a new law targeting puppy farms in England was presented last May. Dubbed as Lucy’s Law, the legislation requires animals to be born in a safe environment with their mother. Also, animals may only be sold from their place of birth. 

Pet shops and dealers will be banned after poor conditions of puppy and kitten farms came to light. 

This legislation was named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who suffered from poor conditions that affected its health. Lucy had a curved spine and epilepsy. Lisa Garner rescued Lucy in 2013 after Lucy was cast away by the puppy farmer because she can no longer bear any puppies. Lucy died in 2016 and a year later, Garner has campaigned for Lucy’s law as a tribute. 

Garner’s campaign was successful, getting support from famous personalities like Ricky Gervais and Peter Egan.

Wild Animals in Circuses Bill

Aside from service and domestic animals, legislation on stopping the use of wild animals in circuses has also been the focus in May. 

Wild animals are classified as animals that are not domesticated and not naturally found in the UK. Among them are reindeer, zebras, and camels. 

Horses and donkeys are not considered as wild animals but use of these animals in circuses will still undergo regulation and inspection from officials. 

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), animals in circuses experience cramped and bare temporary housing, regular transport, forced training and performance, and loud noises and crowds. They further assert that circus life has a damaging effect on the species. 

Mr. Gove said, “Travelling circuses are no place for wild animals in the 21st Century and I am pleased that this legislation will put an end to this practice for good.”

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