A year in Battersea campaigning: A look back at 2021

15 DECEMBER 2021

A lot has happened in 2021, but crucially we have seen major steps forward for dog and cat welfare. Thanks to your support, Battersea continued to be a powerful voice for promoting animal welfare despite the continued disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s look back at what happened this year.

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Five-year sentences for animal cruelty across the UK

Following years of campaigning by Battersea and you, our supporters, a new law in England and Wales finally came into force in summer 2021, raising the maximum possible sentence for acts of animal cruelty from six months to five years. This huge achievement follows a similar change in Scotland in 2020 and means that animals all over the UK are now protected by a law that can properly penalise animal abusers.

It’s been a long fight. We first launched our campaign in 2017 and have been lobbying the Government for change ever since. We would also like to thank everyone who emailed MPs and Ministers and told friends and family about our campaign; we could never have realised this success without you.

Pet theft law is changing

The pandemic has increased pet owners’ fears of their beloved pet being stolen. Battersea research in 2020 for our COVID-19 report showed that in certain areas of the country dog theft has become more prevalent, and reflects the wider surge in demand for pet dogs and cats, and the higher price they now command. 

Pets are currently classed in law as property, so the punishment for stealing a pet is largely based on its monetary value. As a result of concerns raised by Battersea and other campaigners, the Government recently announced that pet abduction would become an offence, separate from the theft of inanimate objects. This is a welcome step towards recognising the significant emotional distress caused by losing a pet in this way.

Animals represented at elections

2021 was also a year of elections, with the London Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd all going to the polls. Battersea worked with candidates from a range of political parties to put animals centre stage, and make animal welfare a critical election issue.

Before the Welsh elections, Battersea met the people responsible for writing the manifestos for all the major political parties. As a result, Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour released manifestos that discussed animal welfare – welcome statements of intent that is increasingly being replicated across the political spectrum.

In Scotland, we worked with our friends in the More for Scotland’s Animals coalition to ask candidates to pledge to back animal welfare if elected. In both Scotland and Wales, we helped organise husting events where members of the public could put their questions about animal welfare directly to representatives from the main political parties.

Improving microchipping

2021 marks five years since it became compulsory to microchip your dog. Microchipping helps us to reunite hundreds of dogs with their loving owners each year, and since 2016, we’ve kept track of the impact of microchipping and how it affects stray dogs by conducting an annual survey of local authorities from across the UK.

This year’s report found that only 26% of stray dogs had microchips with up-to-date, accurate data, as should be the case for all dogs according to the law. 23% of stray dogs still did not have a microchip implanted at all. There’s clearly still work to be done, and Battersea has been working directly with the Government on their review of the effectiveness of dog microchipping. 

Battersea has also long been pushing for a similar requirement for owners to microchip their cats. In December, the Government announced that they will bring forward a new law to require cats to be microchipped and we are looking forward to helping this move forward in 2022. 

Animal welfare on the Government agenda

In May the Government launched its Action Plan for Animal Welfare with a visit to our London centre in Battersea. This strategy sets out ambitions for animal welfare, including tackling puppy smuggling and regulating the rescue and rehoming sector. The strategy has seen a number of pieces of legislation introduced to Parliament, which we’re working closely with MPs and Peers to shape and improve. We will need your help to make these new laws the best that they can be, so keep an eye out for all the ways you can get involved in the new year..

The Welsh Government also released its Animal Welfare Plan for Wales, which sets out how it intends to improve animal welfare. This includes regulating the rescue and rehoming sector, as has already happened this year in Scotland, and bringing in compulsory cat microchipping in Wales.

2022 and beyond

In 2022 Battersea will continue fighting for dogs and cats across the UK. We’re backing new laws to regulate animal rescues and improve the conditions in which dogs and cats are imported into the country. We’re also going to be pushing for better pet policies in rented housing in the next phase of our Pet Friendly Properties campaign, this time looking at issues facing pet owners in the private rented housing market.

To stay updated on these developments and more, you can   follow the Battersea Public Affairs team on Twitter or sign up to our newsletter. Your support will help us make a better world for every dog and cat.

In the meantime, we wish all our supporters a restful Christmas and festive season, and a happy New Year!

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