THE maximum sentence for the worst animal cruelty offences has been increased from six months to five years in England and Wales.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act became law at the end of last week.

A prior version of The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill was previously introduced in 2019 and passed the Committee Stage unamended, but sadly failed to pass before Parliament dissolved at the end of the 2017-2019 session, despite receiving cross-party support and the backing of all major animal welfare organisations.

The Kennel Club has welcomed the news.

Dr Ed Hayes, head of policy and public affairs at The Kennel Club, said: "We are pleased to see that The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act is set to become law and welcome this as a major step forward for dog welfare in this country.

"Animal cruelty is an abhorrent offence and for far too long available sentencing powers have simply not reflected the impact of these despicable crimes.

"The old six-month maximum sentence was the weakest in Europe, as well as weaker than countries such as the United States and Japan, and is simply not good enough for protecting dogs and all animals in this country.

"We were disappointed to see previous attempts to introduce this law fail to pass before Parliament dissolved in 2019, but it is vital that cruelty towards animals is punished with the full force of the law as a means of deterrent and delivering justice."