Joyce backs tougher sentences for animal cruelty

Joyce Watson AM has welcomed moves to impose tougher prison punishments on people who harm animals.

The UK Government this week announced its intention to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences in England from six months to five years. The Welsh Government has written to UK environment minister Michael Gove to arrange for the law change to extend to Wales too.

Welcoming the news, Mrs Watson commented:

“Animals are thinking, feeling beings and should be protected from pain, injury, fear and distress – and prison sentences should reflect that.”

The move will bring maximum sentences for animal cruelty in England and Wales into line with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Scottish Government has also committed to increase the maximum penalty for the most serious cruelty offences to five years’ imprisonment.

The UK draft Bill, published on Tuesday, also sets out the Government “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy”.

At a recent Senedd question time (17 October), the Labour Mid and West Wales AM called for the law change. She said:
“I would like…a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs on whether or not she will consider looking at increasing the maximum jail term for animal abuse from six months to five years. The UK Government have recently announced their intention to increase the maximum prison sentence available to magistrates to five years, and it’s thought that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 will be used as a mandate for change for increasing sentences.
“In the last year, there have been two successful prosecutions in my constituency, where puppy farm breeders have been found guilty of cruelty and neglect. Those animals were kept in the most horrific conditions without being given even the most basic care, and they did suffer terribly. But what struck me was that despite the horrendous suffering that was caused, the longest sentence that was given was only five months. The only other sentence that was given was a nine-week sentence suspended for two years. I believe those sentences to be far too lenient, and I think that we need to urgently address this issue if we are going to be serious about becoming a country that protects animals.”