Battersea celebrates new bill on animal cruelty after thousands campaign for tougher sentences

26 JUNE 2019

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has today strongly welcomed the publication of The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill which proposes increasing sentences for the most serious animal cruelty offences from six months to five years. After heavily campaigning for this change in legislation since February 2017, the leading animal welfare charity has called today’s announcement a ‘landmark achievement’ for dogs and cats in England and Wales.

Claire Horton, Battersea Chief Executive, says: “The introduction of this bill is a landmark achievement, which will make a profound difference to dogs and cats in England and Wales.

“Over 63,000 people backed Battersea’s campaign to increase animal cruelty sentences, sending out a strong message that the current six-month punishment for this type of crime is unacceptable and that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in England and Wales.

“We and many other rescue centres see shocking cases of cruelty and neglect come through our gates and there are many more animals that are dumped and don’t even make it off the streets. Research shows that tougher prison sentences act as a deterrent to would-be criminals and today’s announcement should prevent the suffering of so many animals in the future.”

Battersea launched its campaign calling for five-year sentences in February 2017. Its research looked at 100 different jurisdictions across the world and found England and Wales’ maximum six-month sentence to be the lowest, lagging far behind countries like Ireland at five years and Germany at three years.

The campaign was supported by well-known faces including Paul O’Grady, Sue Perkins, Ricky Gervais, Harry Hill and Tracey Ullman.

Battersea Ambassador Paul O’Grady said: “During my time at Battersea I have seen some truly heart-breaking cases of animal cruelty and severe neglect. One that always sticks in my mind is a dog called Sparkle, who’d been dumped in a suitcase in a park. When she came into Battersea she was a bag of bones – you could see every one of her ribs. Yet she was so trusting and loving, despite all the suffering she’d been through."

"Our pets don’t have a voice of their own, so we need to speak for them. The introduction of five-year-sentences for animal cruelty in England and Wales sends a clear message that we value our pets and we won’t stand for them being mistreated.”

Sadly, Battersea sees cruelty cases like Sparkle far too often. Last year, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Rex was rushed into Battersea after he was found by members of the public bleeding from a stab wound in his side. Despite Battersea’s best efforts, the dog died on the operating table before vets could save him.

Claire Horton adds: “This new legislation, properly enforced, will help bring an end to animal suffering. We look forward to working with MPs of all parties to see this law passed, ensuring that the punishment for animal cruelty will finally fit the crime.”


You can find pictures of Sparkle, Rex and Marjorie (the latter dog is mentioned in the Defra press release) by clicking on this link.

For further information or additional pictures and case studies please contact 020 7627 9265 or email


Notes to editors

  • The Government first pledged to increase sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years at the Conservative conference in 2017. Environment Secretary Michael Gove launched a draft Bill to bring about this change when he visited Battersea in December 2017. The results of this consultation were published in August 2018.
  • To find out more about Battersea’s campaign to raise the maximum sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years, visit
  • The maximum sentence for animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is only six months in prison in England and Wales and just 12 months in Scotland, compared to five years in both Ireland and Northern Ireland
  • Battersea published a report, Sentencing for animal cruelty in England and Wales, on 20 February 2017.
  • Battersea is also campaigning to see the maximum sentence for animal cruelty raised from one to five years in Scotland. For more information, see Battersea’s report, Sentencing for animal cruelty in Scotland
  • 117 MPs have pledged their support for Battersea’s campaign to raise the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years.
  • Battersea is here for every dog and cat and has been since 1860. Since it was founded over 150 years ago, Battersea has rescued, reunited and rehomed over 3.1 million dogs and cats.
  • We believe that every dog and cat deserves the best. That’s why we aim to never turn away a dog or cat in need.
  • For further information on Battersea, please visit
  • Follow Battersea on Twitter @battersea_ or