In a move which has been celebrated by animal rights groups internationally, the U.K. government announced this week that it will let courts in England put animal abusers in jail for up to 5 years.
Up until now, the maximum sentence, no matter what abuse the animal had suffered, could only be punishable with up to 6 months in jail and a fine. However, judges all over the country demanded the ability to give out harsher sentences after seeing horrendous crimes go under-punished, such as one case where a man bought several puppies, only to brutally torture them to death.
The new plans will allow judges and magistrates to jail people for up to 5 years, give them an unlimited fine and also ban them from owning animals in the future.
"We are a nation of animal lovers and so we must ensure that those who commit the most shocking cruelty towards animals face suitably tough punishments," said Environmental Secretary Michael Gove when he revealed the plan on September 30.
As animal welfare laws are devolved (organized between each country in the United Kingdom separately), the new law will only apply in England. However, the Scottish government has also said that it will increase sentences to 5 years as well, and Northern Ireland already has a 5 year maximum. In Wales, the maximum sentence will remain 6 months, but hopefully will follow the lead of its neighbors soon.
British animal rights groups are ecstatic about the news. RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said:
We now feel that those who commit these acts will soon be receiving sentences that reflect the seriousness of their crime and hope this will act as a real deterrent against cruelty and neglect […] Michael Gove’s promise to bring sentences in line with Northern Ireland – which has a maximum of five years’ imprisonment – should help to deter people from abusing and neglecting animals, and will finally mean that the sentence fits the crime.
Other groups have added that this will punish people involved in organized dog fighting more effectively, as well as individual acts of cruelty.
The law will be drafted by the end of the year.
You can read up more about animal cruelty laws in the United States and in Canada here.
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