Wrexham's MP, Sarah Atherton, has shown her support to increasing the sentence for animal cruelty to a maximum of five year's imprisonment.
Speaking ahead of the second reading of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing Bill), Sarah Atherton shows said:
"It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) and hear of Bella, his office dog. I concur; she was robbed.
"I rise to support the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) to increase the sentence for animal cruelty to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment. Mr Deputy Speaker, I must declare an interest, as for the past 20 years I have been the proud mum of a tortoise. A love of tortoises is something that I share with Mr Speaker. I may suggest that we arrange a play date and, who knows, we might hear the pitter patter of tiny shells.
"On a more serious note, the Bill is extremely important and if enacted it would mean sentencing was the same for cruelty to all animals. Under Finn’s law, there is a five-year maximum sentence in place for cruelty to service animals, such as police horses and assistance dogs used by the sensory impaired. The Bill would extend Finn’s law to all animals and would mean the increase of the maximum sentence to five years. It would be one of the toughest punishments in the world, and it is right that we now seek parity.
"I would not want to deprive my hon. Friends of my pet story. When I was a child, a small scruffy black-and-white dog limped through the back door of my family home. He was a Heinz 57 varieties—some of us are old enough to know what that means—and he was in a sorry state of affairs and in desperate need. We took him in and looked after him until we could find his owner. My mother was convinced that he would be claimed, so referred to him as Hound. She was hoping we would not get too attached. He was malnourished and in pain, and Hound had been cruelly mistreated. Both his back legs were dislocated and beyond rectification. The vet’s conclusion was to put him to sleep, but that was not going to happen in our household. Hound was a member of our family for the next 15 years. Yes, he would run like a crab, but he was our crab and we loved him. Even now, 30 years later, there is a picture of Hound on my fridge.
"A pet gives unconditional love and companionship, and what I am describing is the positive long-term impact a pet can have on a child. It is beyond comprehension that someone would mistreat or abuse a child. As a former social worker, I am aware of a correlation between perpetrators of animal cruelty and those of violence towards humans, to pick up on the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson).
"When I was preparing for today’s debate, I spoke to vets in my constituency of Wrexham. They tell me they are concerned about what are termed as covid pups. I take the opportunity to highlight on their behalf that a dog is for life, not just for lockdown. My local vets have raised concerns about dogs purchased since March. The pets have not had the opportunity to be raised and socialised within the wider community, but have been brought up in a solitary household. Let us hope we do not see an increase in abuse and abandonment of pets due to possible behavioural problems or the cost of looking after them as covid restrictions continue.
"Today, we all condemn cruelty to animals. The Bill will act as a punishment and a deterrent. However, I would sound a note of caution. The Bill, if enacted, should not become a tool through which land management techniques or the use of animals as part of our nation’s security are compromised. Further consideration of and guidance on these issues would be required. Put simply, it is not right in an animal-loving country such as our own that a person can get a custodial sentence of up to two years for urinating in public but only six months for dog fighting.
"In conclusion, for the animal lovers of Wrexham, of which I am one, for the people who seek parity of sentencing across the UK, for the people whose lives are enhanced and enriched by the guidance and love of animals, and for the people who find it abhorrent to harm any creature in any form, I support the Bill."
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