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Tougher Sentences for Animal Cruelty

After receiving Royal Assent, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill increases the maximum penalties for people who commit animal abuse. As a result, tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty rise from six (6) months to five (5) years and take full effect from the 29th of June 2021.

Animal Abuse: How Long Do You Go to Jail?

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act and ‘Finn’s Law’ result in much harsher punishments for people who harm animals, including:

  • Courts having the power to enforce tougher penalties (e.g. for the most heinous crimes of animal cruelty).
  • Raising the maximum prison sentence for the most severe acts of animal cruelty from six months to five years.
  • Recognition of the stabbing of a police service dog named ‘Finn’.

Note: Delivery of the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill (Finn’s Law) helps to protect brave service animals (e.g. dogs, horses) and takes full effect from the 8th of June 2021.

UK courts will be able to take a much firmer approach – thanks to the new maximum penalty for animal cruelty – and hand out a significant prison sentence as well as an unlimited fine.

The most stringent sentences (e.g. five years imprisonment) will be among the toughest in Europe. Furthermore, it means the courts can enforce extended penalties for anyone who cruelly mistreats any animal.

Typical examples of abuse include:

  • Blood sports (e.g. dog fighting).
  • Gross neglect or mistreatment of farm animals.
  • Mishandling puppies and kittens.
  • The illegal cropping a dog’s ears.

The law changes follow a public consultation conducted back in 2017. After receiving more than 9,000 responses, it became clear that the public fully supports handing out tough sentences for anyone caught of committing acts of animal cruelty.

Most of the major animal welfare groups also support the new measures for harsher prison sentences, including:

  • Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
  • The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)

Note: Courts in the United Kingdom will have the option to handout extended jail terms from the 29th of June 2021.

New Legislation for Service Animals

The aptly-called ‘Finn’s Law‘ relates to new legislation introduced to protect service animals and came into force in June 2019. Simply put, it is meant to prevent people using a claim of ‘self-defence’ after attacking or injuring service animals.

What is Finn’s Law?

Finn was a male police dog stabbed during the pursuit of a crime suspect and was accompanying his handler – PC David Wardell.

Despite the dog sustaining serious stab wounds to its head and chest areas, the courts could only bring criminal damage charges against the attacker.

Finn’s dog handler said:

The journey to right a wrong started many years ago. All our amazing service animals deserve proper protection while they help us keep the communities safe.

Today sees the final piece of the project known as #FinnsLaw. Hence, a new five-year maximum sentence for attacking a service animal seems entirely appropriate.

Comments from Battersea Chief Executive

We owe a debt of thanks to an unwavering support that stood with us throughout this campaign, including more than 100 MPs.

These animals have no voice of their own. Yet, we changed the future for all animals in this country. As a result, the punishment for committing horrendous acts of cruelty finally fit the crime.

RSPCA Chief Executive

Raising the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty to five years is a huge step forward for animal welfare in the United Kingdom and delivers justice for all animals.

Furthermore, handing out tougher sentences acts as a strong deterrent to potential animal abusers. Thus, it will help us complete our aim of stamping out animal cruelty once and for all.

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Maximum Sentence for Animal Cruelty Raised to 5 Years in the United Kingdom