A new bill proposed in the UK will increase penalties against abusive pet owners. Under the new law, extreme cases of abuse and neglect could lead to a 5-year prison sentence. This law is especially targeted at people who run dog fighting rings, and people who abuse kittens or puppies. There are also provisions for people who are guilty of neglecting farm animals.
Under the current laws, the maximum prison sentence for these offenses is only six months.
The unprecedented legislation was announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove in a recent statement.
“There is no place in this country for animal cruelty. That is why I want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law. Our new Bill sends a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated, with the maximum five-year sentence one of the toughest punishments in Europe. I am committed to making our country the best place in the world for the care and protection of animals,” Gove said.
Gove has also supported many other bills relating to animal rights, including “The Wild Animals In Circuses Bill,” which will see an end to the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows in the UK.
Animal abuse is a serious problem throughout the UK, and activists say that the government is not doing enough to stop it. Last year, the country’s animal control organization, the RSPCA, was called over 1,175,193 times about cruelty abuse cases. That averages out to about one report every 27 seconds.
Claire Horton, chief executive of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, praised the new measure, saying that “The introduction of this bill is a landmark achievement, which will make a profound difference to dogs and cats in England and Wales. We, and many other rescue centres, 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. Research shows that tougher prison sentences act as a deterrent to would-be criminals, so today’s announcement should prevent the suffering of many animals in the future.”
Animal Welfare Minister, David Rutley, also believes that the stiffer laws will protect many animals.
“These increased maximum sentences will act as a serious deterrent against cruelty and neglect in the future. This step builds on recent positive action we have taken to protect animals, including plans to ban third party puppy and kitten sales and banning the use of wild animals in circuses,” Rutley said.
Earlier this year, the country implemented a policy called “Finn’s Law,” which gives special protections to service animals like police dogs and horses. However, critics of the law have said that it will prevent people who are being attacked by police dogs from defending themselves and claiming self-defense if the dog happens to be hurt in the altercation. The law is named after a police dog named Finn, who was stabbed while chasing and attacking a suspect.