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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans he has to introduce parity of treatment under the law for people found guilty of harming or injuring a domestic pet to bring them in line with the penalties imposed if a service dog used by the police or an assistance dog used by a visually impaired person is attacked or injured.
The Government remains fully committed to animal welfare and supports increasing the maximum custodial sentences for animal cruelty offences from six months to five years. This will enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, or gross neglect of farm animals. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 5 February by Chris Loder MP and is due to have its Second Reading on 10 July. The Government will continue to support the Bill as it makes its way through Parliament. The proposed new maximum sentence of five years would apply to all animals under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and hence would provide parity of treatment under the law for domestic pets, for service dogs used by the police, and for assistance dogs used by visually impaired people.
The new maximum penalty of five years is in line with campaigns by key stakeholders such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Blue Cross, Dogs Trust and the RSPCA. This is a positive step forward in improving animal welfare and will act as a serious deterrent against animal cruelty. The increase to five years' imprisonment will provide one of the toughest sanctions in Europe, strengthening the UK's position as a global leader on animal welfare and will apply where anyone is convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.