New legislation that would increase tenfold the maximum sentencing for the worst animal cruelty has begun its passage in the House of Commons in a move welcomed by Maria Caulfield MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cats.

Currently in England, Wales and Scotland the maximum sentence that can be given for animal cruelty is six months imprisonment. This is far below the European average of two years. Northern Ireland has already set the maximum penalty at five years’ imprisonment and the Scottish Government has announced its plans to do so. Both England and Wales will be covered by the new Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which the Government has now introduced.

A maximum prison sentence of five years was chosen as it is in line with the wishes of key stakeholders such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Dogs Trust and the RSPCA.

Maria Caulfield MP said “We are a nation of animal lovers, including myself as a lover of cats in particular. Sadly some people treat animals with appalling cruelty and neglect yet currently only serve a short prison sentence. I am glad that the Government has listened to those of us who have called for increases in sentencing and I look forward to voting this Bill into law and seeing the worst animal cruelty offenders given the sentencing that they deserve.”