A new bill to increase maximum sentences for animal abusers has been introduced to the parliament last week by United Kingdom environment secretary Michael Gove.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill means that animal abusers could face up to five years in prison – a great increase from the current maximum sentence of just six months and will serve as one of the toughest sanctions known in Europe. This new bill will strengthen the country’s position as a global leader on animal welfare.

This new announcement follows the public survey made last year, which found that more than 70% of people supported tougher prison sentences for animal abusers. This means tougher approach will be made for cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, or gross neglect of farm animals.

“There is no place in this country for animal cruelty. That is why I want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law. Our new Bill sends a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated, with the maximum five-year sentence one of the toughest punishments in Europe,” Gove said in a press release statement.

“I am committed to making our country the best place in the world for the care and protection of animals,” he added.

Last year, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has received 1,175,193 calls to their 24-hour cruelty hotline every 27 seconds.

“These increased maximum sentences will act as a serious deterrent against cruelty and neglect in the future. This step builds on recent positive action we have taken to protect animals, including plans to ban third party puppy and kitten sales and banning the use of wild animals in circuses,” animal welfare minister David Rutley said.

The bill will be introduced to the House of Commons and then to the House of Lords. If passed, it will come into effect in two months after receiving Royal Assent.

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