Second Reading of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2019-2020 is due to take place on 29 October 2019. The Bill, which was reintroduced by the Government following the Queen's Speech, would increase the maximum sentence for certain animal cruelty offences from six months to five years in England and Wales.Jump to full report >>
Animal welfare is a devolved matter. For England and Wales, a range of legislation on animal welfare was consolidated under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to domesticated animals, or any animals under the control of man. The maximum penalty under the Act is currently a six-month sentence and/or an unlimited fine.
In 2016 the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences in Northern Ireland under the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 was increased to five years, following the recommendations of a review of the implementation of the Act. The Scottish Government consulted in February 2019 on increasing the maximum sentence from one to five years under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. The Environmental Food And Rural Affairs Select Committee carried out an enquiry into domestic pet welfare in 2016. One of its recommendations was that maximum sentences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 should be increased to five years. The Government did not support the proposal at the time
However, following a number of serious animal welfare prosecutions, the Government announced in September 2017, that it intended to increase the maximum sentence to five years. It published draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill in December 2017 for consultation. Following this, the Government decided that it would legislate for increased sentences as soon as parliamentary time became available, whilst continuing to work further on animal sentience proposals.
The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2017-2020 was published on 26 June 2019. Second Reading in the Commons took place 9 July 2019. The Bill would increase the maximum penalty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 for the most serious animal cruelty offences in England and Wales from six months to five years. Committee Stage of the Bill took place on 23 July 2019. The Bill was passed unamended and was scheduled for Report Stage in the Commons on 4 September 2019. However, this was cancelled, and the Bill fell at the end of the 2017-2109 parliamentary session.
The Queen’s Speech on 14 October 2019 set out the Government’s intention to reintroduce the Bill in the 2019-2020 parliamentary session. Following this the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2019-2020 was published on 15 October 2019 with a Second Reading date of 29 October 2019. The text of the Bill is the same as that of the previous session.