Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:08 am on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South 10:08 am, 4th February 2022

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell for doing so much to further the case for animal welfare: as a former shadow Minister for animal welfare and the chair of the all-party group on zoos and aquariums, he is an advocate like no other. They say that dogs are a man’s best friend; it is no stretch to say that my hon. Friend is one of the UK animal population’s best friends.

One of my best friends is a sassy little bitch called Karen, a pomeranian chihuahua, or pomihuaha. She is a very small dog with a very big personality—the ultimate companion who can cheer me up at the end of a long day and bring a smile to my face in the toughest of times. Through my time with Karen I am reminded of the special place our pets and animals have in our homes and hearts, why Britain is a proud nation of animal lovers, and why it is so important that we protect our furry friends.

I am very proud that our Government are striving to ensure our animal welfare standards continue to be world leading. We have had the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021, or Loder’s law, which has increased the maximum prison sentence from six months to five years for those who harm animals, and a new offence of pet abduction to tackle the sick and depraved individuals who would steal someone’s cherished pet and deprive them of an often-priceless relationship. We also have the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill tackling puppy smuggling and the export of live animals for slaughter. My hon. Friend’s Bill will bridge the gap between criminal prosecution and warning letters so that action can be taken and sanctions issued straightaway to protect our animals’ health and wellbeing.

In this country, we have an incredible farming community who go above and beyond to care for their livestock. We also have an amazing network of zoos that delivers incredible educational opportunities for youngsters and protects and cares for exotic and rare species to high standards. In our own homes, we are a nation of animal lovers. People across Britain love, cherish and adore their furry friends and family members, but how do we deal with the small minority who do not provide that level of care?

There is currently a gap in the powers available to deal with those people and in some cases we fail to provide a fair, firm, proportionate and prompt response before reaching the threshold for prosecution. It is devastating that last year the RSPCA received 57,000 complaints of animal cruelty. The Bill will provide the penalties and the means to tackle that behaviour at an earlier stage as well as an educational tool to prevent bad situations from getting worse. Our pets are family members and friends who deserve protection. We should give the authorities all the powers they need to tackle those who would do them harm.