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The Government May Not Deliver Its Pledge To Bring In Tougher Prison Sentences For Those Convicted Of Cruelty To Animals

2 min read

Tougher prison sentences for people convicted of animal cruelty could fail to be made law for a second time, as the Commons faces a backlog of legislation.

Increasing jail terms from a maximum of six months to five years is a Tory party manifesto promise, but coronavirus legislation and emergency debates have pushed the bill further down the Parliamentary timetable. 

Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, Luke Pollard MP, says unless the government takes action to bring forward the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, as soon as possible, it risks falling for the second time in four years. 

It comes as the RSPCA found a spike in animal cruelty cases during the first national lockdown with an average of 790 incidents a day. They have said they expect to see a second increase in reported incidents following this latest period of restrictions. 

Labour has said that if the Conservatives allow this bill to fall, they will be breaking another manifesto commitment. 

Pollard said: “Raising the sentences for animal cruelty has support from all sides of the House and from the vast majority of the public. 

“If this were to fall again, it would be a clear sign that the government lacks the commitment to act on animal welfare.” 

The bill is a private members bill and all of these forms of proposed legislation have been squeezed from their usual Commons timetable spot of being heard on a Friday because of the volume of work coronavirus has generated. 

An earlier form of the bill also failed to progress in the 2017 to 2019 session, running out of time to be heard in a Parliament dominated by Brexit proceedings.   

The government insists the delays do not dampen its commitment to introducing tougher sentences.

A Defra spokesperson said:  “We have made clear there is no place for animal cruelty in this country and this crucial piece of legislation will bring in more stringent sentences for animal abusers who commit the most heinous crimes, cementing our role as a global leader in animal welfare.

“The impact of the coronavirus outbreak and associated emergency response work has led to a delay in progressing this bill, but it has the full support of the government who will do all it can to support its swift passage without amendment through the Commons and the Lords as soon as possible.” 

The bill had its reading on October 23 and currently no further dates have been set for it to progress. 

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