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Tougher Penalties for Animal Cruelty in the UK under New Laws

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Tougher penalties for animal cruelty in the UK have come into effect over the last year. If you have been accused of an animal cruelty offence, it is essential to understand how the law has changed and what this may mean for your situation.

Changes to the UK’s animal cruelty laws include the introduction of higher prison sentences and fines for people convicted of animal abuse offences. If you have been accused of an animal cruelty offence, our criminal law solicitors are on hand to provide guidance and support every step of the way.

Below, we have answered some of the key questions you are likely to have about how UK animal cruelty laws have changed. For more personal advice, please do contact us.

What changes have been made to animal cruelty laws?

Over the last few years, there have been some major changes to the animal cruelty laws in the UK.

The following are the key new pieces of legislation that have been passed and that are currently going through parliament.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021

From 29 June 2021, courts are able to bestow a much stricter prison sentence for those who are convicted of committing animal cruelty. The maximum sentence has now increased from 6 months to 5 years.

This Act is intended to help courts to crack down on dog fighting, cropping dogs’ ears and general neglects with much more serious consequences for those involved. 

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022

This Act formally recognises animals as sentient beings within domestic law. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act applies to vertebrate animals, which includes dogs, cats and farm animals like cows, pigs and sheep.

The Act is intended to help shape policy across all government departments, so could potentially have long-term implications for pet owners and the farming industry.

Animal (Penalty Notices) Act 2022

From 28 April 2022, farmers can be fined up to £5,000 for failing to properly care for livestock under the terms of the Animal (Penalty Notices) Act 2022. These toughened fines will sit alongside the maximum 5-year prison sentence already available for more serious offences.

Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill

This Bill is currently still making its way through parliament. It targets puppy smuggling and livestock worrying. Key aims of the Bill include:

  • Reducing the number of puppies, ferrets, cats, livestock etc. being smuggled and imported
  • Reducing or banning the export of live animals for slaughter or fattening
  • Preventing people from keeping primates as pets
  • Giving the police power to protect livestock and game birds from dogs
  • Increasing regulations in zoos

What are the penalties for animal cruelty in the UK?

Animal cruelty is an individual or group failure to meet the needs of an animal, whether that is negligence or deliberate abuse. This includes things like failing to provide a suitable diet for the animal, causing it unnecessary suffering with bad living conditions and causing physical harm.

Previously, these crimes were punishable with a maximum 6 months in prison. As set out above, the maximum sentence was raised to 5 years in 2021 under the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021.

On top of this, the new Animal (Penalty Notices) Act 2022 introduces fines of up to £5,000 for animal offenders. This will include on-the-spot fines for people seen abusing pets, livestock or zoo animals across the UK.

Enforcement agencies like the RSPCA have the power to get involved if they believe an animal is being mistreated. If the owner does not comply with any actions specified by the RSPCA, then the authorities can submit a formal warning followed by prosecution.

Speak to our criminal law solicitors in Newport today

If you are facing an investigation or charge for animal cruelty, our criminal law solicitors in Newport are here to help and provide practical guidance along the way.

We can make sure you are up to date on all the recent changes and are equipped with all the information needed to face the charge.

For more information about penalties regarding animal cruelty, please speak to one of our criminal law solicitors in Newport, South Wales by getting in touch today.