Maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty raised to five years under new bill

The bill follows the introduction of ‘Finn’s Law’ in 2019 to better protect service animals.

A new animal welfare bill introducing maximum prison sentences of five years for cruelty against animals has received royal ascent, with the law coming into force from June 29 2021.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has raised the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years in an effort to crack down on cases like dog fighting, abuse of kittens and puppies and neglect of farm animals.

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Alongside a prison sentence, offenders can also receive an unlimited fine under the new bill.

The tougher sentencing will allow courts to punish those committing "heinous" acts of cruelty against animals, say Defra.

The new legislation follows the introduction of ‘Finn’s Law’ in 2019, which prevented those who attack or injure service animals from claiming self-defence. The law was named after a police dog who was stabbed while pursuing a suspect.

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said the new sentences will be some of the toughest in Europe, sending “a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated”.

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Strong support for tougher sentencing was demonstrated in 2017 following a public consultation. Animal welfare groups, including the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, have also welcomed the tougher legislation.

Chris Sherwood, RSPCA Chief Executive, said:

“This law is a huge step forward for animal welfare in the UK and we’re delighted that justice will now be served for animals.

“Tougher sentences will act as a stronger deterrent to potential animal abusers and will help us in our aim to stamp out animal cruelty once and for all.”

PC David Wardell, police handler of Finn the dog, also expressed his relief at the introduction of the new bill, saying:

“I am absolutely over the moon that today sees the final piece of the #FinnsLaw project put into place with a new five-year maximum sentence for those who attack our service animals, or who commit cruelty or neglect upon any of this nation’s animals.”