I strongly welcome the measures in this short, simple Bill. I emphasise “simple”, because that is how it needs to stay in order to get it implemented quickly. The changes are long promised, long needed and long overdue.
There is a perception among many people, including, importantly, members of the judiciary, that the sentences available to the courts at the moment to deal with serious offences of cruelty are inadequate, despite the UK having some of the most progressive animal welfare legislation in the world. As we have heard, the maximum penalty for the most serious cases of animal cruelty is still only a maximum of six months in prison, an unlimited fine and/or a ban on keeping animals. Given the level of serious animal neglect, cruelty and violence against animals every day, that does not seem to be acting as a deterrent.
The Minister gave the example of the man who received only a 26-week jail term after he was found guilty of kicking a four-month-old puppy to death. We heard from the shadow Secretary of State about another example, that of the Lancashire man who received only a 22-week sentence and was disqualified from keeping animals for life after the RSPCA obtained a video of him setting his dogs on a pet cat and a fox.