Animal abusers who commit the most heinous crimes could face up to five years in prison under new plans.
Currently the maximum sentence is six months but the government will announce plans to bring forward new legislation that will increase that tenfold, sending a clear signal to any potential offenders that there is no place for animal cruelty in England.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We are a nation of animal lovers and so we must ensure that those who commit the most shocking cruelty towards animals face suitably tough punishments.
“These plans will give courts the tools they have requested to deal with the most abhorrent acts. This is one part of our plan to deliver world-leading standards of animal welfare in the years ahead.”
Defra said that cases of extreme cruelty are rare – on average 1,150 people per year are convicted for animal cruelty, fewer than five of them receive the current maximum sentence.
Under the government’s plans, courts will retain the ability to hand out an unlimited fine and ban an offender from owning animals in the future, but crucially they will also have the ability to sentence the worst cases appropriately.