The maximum sentence will now stand as five years. Courts can also issue an unlimited fine and ban offenders from keeping animals in future.
The new legislation will only be relevant to England. Devolved animal cruelty powers allow Wales and Scotland to set their own sentences, which currently stand as six and 12 month maximum sentences respectively. The Scottish government has announced plans to increase the maximum penalty.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said the new legislation will be aimed at: “those who commit the most shocking cruelty towards animals”.
Jacqui Cuff, Cats Protection’s advocacy and government relations manager, commented: “Cats Protection very much welcomes the government’s announced intention to increase sentences to a maximum of five years for serious crimes against animals.
“Sadly there are regular reports of cats suffering appalling acts of cruelty. These include cats being shot at deliberately with air guns or poisoned, as well as the horrific deaths and mutilations inflicted by the M25 cat killer. We hope this move will deter those intending to harm cats or indeed any other animal.”