Welsh Conservatives call on Labour Government to use powers to extend maximum sentence for animal cruelty

Wales should follow the example of England in introducing tougher penalties for animal welfare offences, the Welsh Conservatives have said.

In late September, Michael Gove - the UK Government’s Environment Secretary - introduced legislation in England increasing the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences from six months up to five years.

Mr Gove said the law would target "those who commit the most shocking cruelty towards animals". The Scottish Government has also committed to extending sentences from 12 months to five years for the worst offences, and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland already have these measures in place.

In today’s First Minister Questions, leader of the Welsh Conservatives – Andrew RT Davies – called on Carwyn Jones and his Welsh Government to immediately exercise its devolved powers do the same, citing the appalling example of an individual who was handed a mere 24-week sentence for feeding his Staffordshire Bull Terrier with cocaine before cutting its ears off.

Commenting outside the chamber, Andrew RT Davies said:

“Severe cruelty to animals should be matched by severe punishment but sadly the Welsh Labour-led Government has doing very little and sat on its hands.

“Latest figures from the RSPCA demonstrate Wales has an increasing problem with animal cruelty and sadly we have been left well and truly behind in comparison to the action taken by other parliaments across the United Kingdom.

“Tough sentencing will deter the perpetrators of these hideous crimes against defenceless animals. The powers have been at the disposal of the Welsh Government for many years but we must see action taken immediately.

“I welcome the First Minister’s intention to write to me outlining the steps his government will now take and I can only hope this intervention from the Welsh Conservatives will right this ghastly wrong.”

Paul Davies AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Rural Affairs, expressed surprise at the Welsh Government’s failure to act and emphasised that Wales “should not be a soft touch on animal cruelty or a safe haven for ruthless dog-fighting gangs”.

He said:

“Wales should not be a soft touch on animal cruelty or a safe haven for ruthless dog-fighting gangs.

“Now that every other country in the United Kingdom have committed to get tough on animal cruelty, it is now left to the Welsh Labour-led administration to use its devolved powers and do the same.

“By extending the maximum sentence to five years, Welsh Government would be sending a clear message to those who purposefully harm animals for profit or fun that there is no place in this society for such cruel behaviour.”

Notes to editors:

Michael Gove’s announcement on tougher penalties for animal cruelty in England can be read here.

RSPCA Cymru investigated 10,540 complaints of cruelty in 2016, compared to 9,895 in 2015. The organisation secured 120 convictions in magistrates’ courts, relating to 61 defendants in 2016. This was a 35% increase in convictions compared to 2015 – link here