RSPCA Cymru has welcomed news that the Welsh Government is working to increase the maximum prison sentence which can be handed down to those convicted of animal cruelty.

The Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths has announced that officials from Wales will be working with the UK Government, which has today submitted a draft animal welfare bill for the consideration of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee.

It is anticipated that this will pave the way for the maximum animal cruelty sentences in Wales to increase to five years. Currently the maximum sentence in England and Wales for an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is six months.

For the past few months, RSPCA Cymru has been campaigning and urging the Welsh Government to ensure stronger sentences are made available in Wales. Supporters, via the charity’s website have been signing a joint letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs.

Claire Lawson, RSPCA Cymru Assistant Director of External Relations, said: “It is very welcome news that the Welsh Government are working to ensure the availability of increased prison sentences for animal abusers in Wales, which will be a vital change in improving animal welfare law in this country.

“Sadly, every year, we tackle harrowing, and inexplicable animal cruelty. The cruelty we witness can be absolutely heartbreaking – and making tougher sentences available in Wales will ensure that punishments will better reflect that barbarity.

“We would like to thank everyone who supported our campaign and thank the Welsh Government for listening to the strength of public opinion. We’ll continue to work closely with the Welsh Government to ensure these stronger prison sentences for animal abusers are made available in Wales as soon as possible.

“This is another hugely important step forward for animals across Wales – but there’s much to do to ensure the justice system best deters crimes against animals. We have long highlighted the benefits an animal abuse offender register for Wales could also have – and are delighted to be leading a Task & Finish Group exploring this issue.”

On Tuesday (12 December), the Welsh Government also reiterated its support for UK law to make clear that animals are legally recognised as sentient beings, following the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Ms Lawson added: “The Welsh Government’s continued and on-going support for animal sentience to be fully reflected in law, following Brexit, is very welcome. It’s great to hear the Cabinet Secretary will be discussing this with the UK Government, as it’s so important to ensure that animal sentience is fully reflected in law, in Wales.”