The maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty has now been raised to five years

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act is set to cover both England and Wales.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 30th April 2021

People who abuse animals could now face up to five years in prison after the government introduced new sentencing rules yesterday.

Tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty are set to come into force this summer after the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill was passed into law on Thursday, meaning that the maximum prison sentence for people who abuse animals will be raised from six months to five years from 29 June 2021.

The new maximum penalty will enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals, and as well as a prison sentence – with the more stringent sentences set to be some of the toughest in Europe – offenders can also receive an unlimited fine.

The government said in a statement yesterday that the act will help ensure courts are able to enforce extended penalties for those who cruelly mistreat any animal, sending a clear message that “animal cruelty will not be tolerated”.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act is set to cover both England and Wales.


Over the last three years, the RSPCA has secured 4,103 convictions in the courts in England and Wales and 156 individuals received immediate prison terms.

Speaking on the passing of the new bill, Chris Sherwood – Chief Executive at RSPCA – said: “This act is a huge step forward for animal welfare in the UK and we’re delighted that justice will now be served for animals.


“Tougher sentences will act as a stronger deterrent to potential animal abusers and will help us in our aim to cancel out animal cruelty once and for all”.

He added: “This reform is long overdue.

“For many years, the most violent and horrific abuse and cruelty received a maximum penalty of just a few months [so] we’re proud to have some of the best standards of animal welfare in the world, but custodial sentences have long been letting us down.


“Every year, our officers are faced with cases of the most unimaginable cruelty – animals beaten, stabbed, shot and burned, unwanted or elderly pets being drowned, wild animals shot with crossbows or set on fire, gangs forcing cockerels to fight to the death and breeders cutting off puppies’ ears to make them look tough.

“Since the bill was introduced, animals have been starved, shot, stabbed, beaten to death and drowned [but] at least now, in those cases that leave us heartbroken, our courts will be able to hand out sentences that truly reflect the severity of the crimes”.

MP Chris Loder said: “HM The Queen has signed my Bill into law.

“Those who are cruel to animals can now go to prison for 5 years. It has taken years of hard work to realise this – thank you to all involved.

The campaign for our animals continues [and] banning live exports and non-stunned slaughter next”.


You can find more information via the website.

Featured Image – SnappyGoat