Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:14 am on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Gagan Mohindra Gagan Mohindra Conservative, South West Hertfordshire 10:14 am, 4th February 2022

I congratulate my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell and join him in his glowing tribute to David Amess, who I am sure would have been in this place today to witness the Third Reading of the Bill.

My hon. Friend has worked hard to champion animal penalty notices and to bring this debate before the House. The Bill is concerned not just with pets, but with zoo animals and livestock. My beautiful constituency is approximately 65% agriculture and I always enjoy seeing the variety of livestock grazing the fields as I travel through it. I have not had the benefit of having a pet myself, but I am fully aware of the love and care that families have for their pets. Indeed, that is part of the reason why I have not taken on that additional responsibility. They really do become a member of the family.

Pets are sentient beings and we must do all we can to protect animals from cruelty. I am pleased to see Government support doing just that. In June last year, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 raised the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years. That is a welcome step towards increasing animal welfare and protection, but going to court is not always the most effective measure against animal cruelty, hence the need for the Bill.

I recently had a discussion with David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, about its work to keep animals safe. In 2020, the RSPCA had over 1 million calls to its cruelty line and over 140,000 welfare incidents were dealt with by the inspectorate. This issue affects all our constituencies, including my own where there were 24 investigations in 2021. However, in 2020, only 1,743 people were prosecuted for animal cruelty and only 908 were convicted of animal cruelty offences.

Those statistics demonstrate a gap in the legal system to correctly charge people with animal cruelty offences. In the current system without fixed-penalty notices, people have to be taken to court over animal cruelty offences, putting pressure on the court system and increasing the length of time taken. The Bill creates a system of financial penalties of up to £5,000 for animal health and welfare officers, including on-the-spot fines. Fixed-penalty notices are an out-of-court disposal and they serve as an important education tool to help to prevent animal cruelty.

I will leave it at that and I look forward to the contributions of other right hon. and hon. Members. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romford on getting the Bill to this stage.