One step closer to introducing five-year sentences for animal cruelty offences

03 FEBRUARY 2021

Leading animal welfare charity Battersea has today (3 February) welcomed long-awaited progress on crucial new legislation to increase sentences for animal cruelty offences.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill in England and Wales passed its Second Reading back in October 2020 and, almost four months later, has now passed the Committee Stage of its passage through the House of Commons. 

Battersea has been campaigning for many years to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years in prison – a call supported by tens of thousands of members of the public and over 150 MPs from across Parliament. 

Battersea’s Interim Chief Executive, Peter Laurie, said: “This is a significant step forward for animal welfare. It has been a long time coming and we’re encouraged to at last see headway being made in Westminster. We look forward to seeing the Bill completing its passage in this parliamentary term.”  

After suffering many delays and setbacks in which the previous Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill in England and Wales was subsequently dropped, the increase to maximum sentences was reintroduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Chris Loder MP in February 2020. The Government has previously indicated that they intend to support the Bill during passage through Parliament and into law. Scotland changed their own law in July 2020.

Peter continues: “Battersea continues to speak up for animals who don’t have a voice. Currently England and Wales have amongst the lowest maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences in the world at just six months in prison - raising this to five years will better protect innocent animals in the future and make it clear that animal cruelty is a heinous crime.”

The Bill will now proceed to its final stages in the House of Commons before moving to the House of Lords.  

For more information visit  Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in England and Wales, can be found here


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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 at the time, Michael Gove, launched a draft Bill to bring about this change when he visited Battersea in December 2017. The results of the consultation were published in April 2018. 
  • A similar Bill had already begun the Parliamentary process once before, however, the Bill fell during the prorogation of Parliament in October, and a second time when a general election was called in December 2019. 
  • A Private Member’s Bill is currently seeking to introduce these measures.  
  • The maximum sentence for animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is only six months in prison in England and Wales. 
  • Battersea also campaigned for the same law in Scotland in August 2017. The Scottish Government passed the law to raise maximum sentences from 12 months to five years in July 2020. 
  • Battersea is committed to helping every dog and cat that needs us – championing their rights, loving their imperfections and expertly caring for them because rescue is our favourite breed. 
  • We’re reliant on the generosity of the public to continue to fund our vital work helping dogs and cats and the people who care for them. To donate to Battersea, visit
  • In addition to the site in London, Battersea also has two other centres based at Old Windsor, Berkshire and Brands Hatch, Kent.
  • Follow Battersea on Twitter @battersea_ or