Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:36 pm on 10th July 2019.

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Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Labour/Co-operative, Redcar 2:36 pm, 10th July 2019

I really appreciate that sentiment; that was very decent of the right hon. Gentleman. So often these cases bubble up in the media but then disappear. If this place is for anything, it is for responding to situations such as this and acting. I am proud that we are all here today to do that.

Scamp, as I said, was found buried alive. The people of my constituency were horrified by the two cases I have mentioned. I pay tribute to their response. Vigils were held in my community for those animals. Hundreds of people came to lay flowers and candles and to send out the message, loudly and defiantly, that the perpetrators do not represent our community. They do not represent the people of Redcar, who are decent and kind and love animals. But the people are angry: they feel that the criminal justice system has let them down, as do the majority of people across our nation of animal lovers.

On researching how these crimes could have resulted in such impossibly lenient sentences, I was astonished to find that the maximum sentence for any form of animal abuse is just six months’ custody. Incredibly, that has not changed since the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which was introduced, essentially, to make it an offence to override or overload animals pulling loads on the street or in pits. The law is lagging a century behind. If we are to continue declaring ourselves to be a nation of animal lovers, this Bill is necessary to send a loud and clear message that we take animal cruelty seriously.

I join others in paying tribute to the animal welfare organisations that have supported this campaign and for their efforts—day in, day out—in saving and protecting animals and investigating crimes. Specifically, I would like to thank the RSPCA, the Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs Home and the League Against Cruel Sports. I also thank the wider public for their contribution to the progress that the Bill represents. Colleagues across the House will have been lobbied by many of their constituents who have passionately held views on the need to protect animals and ensure that sentencing is a proportionate punishment.