Saturday, July 10, 2021

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 allows for 5-year prison sentences for certain animal cruelty offences

I am republishing verbatim some of the explanatory notes of the above act which explains why it has come into existence. In summary the above act allows judges to apply much stiffer prison sentences to the crimes specified below in the bulleted table to a maximum of five years and an unlimited fine. The unlimited fine is unchanged.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 allows for 5-year prison sentences for certain animal cruelty offences
 Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 allows for 5-year prison sentences for certain animal cruelty offences

The above UK act "increases the maximum penalty for specific offences related to animal welfare in England and Wales from 29 June 2021. It does so by extending the maximum penalty, specified under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, of six months and/or an unlimited fine to a penalty of five years and/or an unlimited fine. These offences therefore become triable either way, and may be heard in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court.


".....the 2006 Act set out a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for the more serious 'prevention of harm' offences. There are five such offences under section 32(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006:
  • causing unnecessary suffering (section 4, Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • carrying out a non-exempted mutilation (section 5, Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • docking the tail of a dog except where permitted (section 6(1) and 6(2), Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • administering a poison to an animal (section 7, Animal Welfare Act 2006); and
  • involvement in an animal fight (section 8, Animal Welfare Act 2006). 
There were a number of cases related to these offences in which judges expressed a desire to impose a higher penalty than that which the 2006 Act provided for, prior to this Act passing. There was a particular desire to increase the penalties available in the case of crimes that relate to deliberate, calculating and sadistic behaviour."

The RSPCA has been lobbying for this change and they are understandable thrilled. They said:

"This is a landmark day for animals and animal welfare in England and Wales. For almost 200 years the RSPCA has been investigating animal cruelty and rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals. While we’ve seen vast changes in the way we keep animals during that time, as well as huge advances in legislation to better protect animal welfare, our sentences for animal abusers have long been letting our animals down. We’re absolutely thrilled that we’ve now reached this milestone moment and that courts will now have more flexibility to hand out sentences that better reflect the severity of the crimes they are dealing with and we hope the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act will act as a greater deterrent and help us cancel out cruelty once and for all."

The UK is a world leader with other countries such as Sweden on animal welfare laws protecting animals from abuse and cruelty. At the other end of the scale is China and some other Asian countries where there is either no animal welfare laws or poor enforcement. Without enforcement even the best laws are worse than useless. 

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