RSPCA Cymru has welcomed Welsh Government action to deliver tougher prison sentences for the worst perpetrators of animal abuse.

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, announced today (26 June) that a legislative consent motion will be put forward, paving the way for the relevant aspects of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill – announced by Defra – to apply to Wales, as well as England.

If passed, that legislative consent motion would pave the way for the maximum prison sentence for those convicted of animal abuse to rise ten-fold – from six months to five years.

RSPCA Cymru has urged all political groupings in the National Assembly for Wales to back the legislative consent motion, and ensure tougher punishments are available in courtrooms across Wales to penalise offenders against animals.

Under the plans, Assembly Members could be the first decision-makers to vote on the new Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, and the first in mainland Britain to vote in favour of increasing the maximum prison sentences for those who abuse animals.

Claire Lawson, RSPCA Cymru’s assistant director for external affairs, said: “This announcement is great news for animals in Wales – and sends a real statement of intent.

“We know most people in Wales join us in being appalled by animal abuse, and these measures will ensure that courtrooms can hand-down far stricter sentences for those who are cruel to our fellow living creatures.

“Prosecution is always a last resort for the RSPCA – but sometimes we have no other option. Sadly, last year saw a five-year high for our prosecution activity in Wales; but stronger punishments will act as a further deterrent to animal abuse.

“It is fantastic news that the Welsh Government is backing a legislative consent motion, paving the way for the relevant aspects of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill to apply for Wales.

“We now urge Assembly Members from across the political spectrum to back this LCM and deliver a united voice against animal abuse, and in favour of tougher prison sentences being made available for the most heinous acts.”

Sadly, RSPCA officers continue to deal with harrowing instances of animal abuse – which has largely prompted RSPCA Cymru’s long-standing campaign to increase the maximum sentences available to courts in Wales.

Last week, three men from Wales were jailed for 22 weeks, 20 weeks and 18 weeks respectively for their involvement in organised badger digging, in a case described by the judge as ‘medieval barbarity’.

A mobile phone seized as part of the investigation revealed more than 400 videos as well as text messages and images depicting hunting and animal cruelty offences. Footage included clips of wildlife being killed and dogs with extensive injuries from being used to hunt animals. In one video, a baby badger is pulled from underground and attacked by dogs, who then skin the poor animal alive. Shortly after the badger is seen to be still alive and is then killed, hit over the head with a shovel.
The move to change the maximum sentence would bring Wales, and England, into line with Northern Ireland and a host of other European countries.

In 2018, RSPCA prosecutions hit a five-year high in Wales, with 164 convictions secured by the charity in the nation’s magistrates’ courts.