Justice at last for animals in England and Wales

28 APRIL 2021

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From every dog and cat – thank you!

After years of campaigning alongside our supporters and politicians, together we have made history and helped change the law. The maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences in England and Wales has today increased fromsix months to five years. It is a momentous day that will make a difference to the lives of animals for years to come. From everyone at Battersea, and from every single dog and cat – thank you.

A much-needed change

England and Wales are now safer for animals as a landmark law to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty has completed its passage through Parliament. The previous maximum sentence of just six months imprisonment (the most lenient penalty in Europe) did little to protect animals, neither matching the severity of the crime nor acting as a deterrent.

Animals cannot speak for themselves, so we lend them our voice when we see their welfare under threat. Thanks to Battersea’s campaign, you our supporters, and our collective voice, we now have a new law which will ensure animal cruelty is taken seriously.

#NotFunny - Battersea’s law-changing campaign

Battersea launched its campaign to change the law back in 2017, with famous comedians including Paul O’Grady MBE, Ricky Gervais and Tracey Ullman declaring that the then-maximum sentences for animal cruelty were a joke, and it was #NotFunny.

Battersea Ambassador Paul O’Grady joined in today’s celebrations of the bill finally being passed, saying, “I’m delighted that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has been passed into law, successfully realising the ambition of Battersea’s Not Funny campaign which was launched in 2017.”

Comedian Ricky Gervais added his voice to the celebrations, saying, “Thanks to Battersea, justice will finally be served to anyone who perpetuates animal cruelty and a proper punishment brought in – one that I hope will serve as a deterrent to anyone who would contemplate harming an innocent creature. Today’s a great day for animals everywhere.”

Nearly 80,000 of you joined us in making your voice heard by emailing your MP to show how much you cared about changing the law.

The Government listened, and by September 2017 had vowed to raise maximum sentences for animal cruelty. This swift commitment to act would not have happened without Battersea and you, our vocal supporters.

Getting the law changed

After several frustrating false starts, the new law was finally introduced as a Private Members’ Bill by Chris Loder MP in early 2020. To promote and gain political support for the Bill, Battersea ran an event in Parliament and got over 100 Parliamentarians to pledge their support for the Bill. The Bill had the backing of every major political party and from the wider public.

With the COVID-19 pandemic requiring restrictions on parliamentary activity, there was concern this Bill would run out of time. In 2019 a similar Government-led Bill fell twice, causing heartbreak among animal lovers. This time, the Bill passed with only one day to spare before Parliament closed for prorogation.

This new law will apply in England and Wales. Scotland increased its maximum sentence to five years imprisonment last year following campaigning from Battersea and our supporters. This change now brings the rest of the UK in line with Northern Ireland, and ensures all the UK’s animals are now protected by appropriate sentencing.

Battersea’s Chief Executive, Peter Laurie, said:

“At Battersea, our staff know all too well the horrific suffering abusers can inflict on innocent animals. When we discovered England and Wales had the lowest maximum sentence for cruelty in Europe, we said enough is enough and launched our campaign. Thanks to the unwavering support of everyone who stoodwith us to speak up for animals who have no voice of their own, we’ve changed the future for animals in this country and now the punishment for these horrendous acts of cruelty can finally fit the crime. Parliament has sent a clear message today – we will not tolerate animal abuse in this country.

“We can’t thank our supporters enough. Battersea is here for every dog and cat - not just those that come through our centres, but across the UK and beyond.”

What happens now?

First, we celebrate, and we hope you’ll join us. The key to this campaign was showing politicians how much you, the UK public care about animal welfare and how we treat our pets. Everyone who supported the campaign by contacting MPs, MSPs and Ministers on this issue has played a valuable part in changing the law and we would like to say a huge thank you. We couldn’t have done this without you.

However, our work speaking out for animals does not stop here. We will continue campaigning on issues that impact our cats and dogs’ welfare, including making it easier for pet owners to rent property, improving regulation of businesses and other organisations who look after pets, and reforming the law around dangerous dogs.

To find out more about how you can support our future campaigns, sign up for our campaigning emails: https://www.battersea.org.uk/public-affairs-email-sign-form

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