It was the news we'd hoped for when we launched our campaign to increase sentences for animal cruelty offences. Last weekend, the Government in Westminster announced it intends to increase the maximum punishment for animal cruelty offences in England to five years in prison. At Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, we've been calling for such an increase for a long time and we warmly welcome this hugely important step from the Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Just over seven months ago, Battersea launched our campaign in the heart of Westminster, publishing research that revealed England and Wales' six-month maximum sentence for even the most shocking cases of abuse was the lowest across the whole of Europe, with Scotland's 12-month sentence little better. Shockingly, you could get less time in prison for torturing and killing an animal than you could for dumping litter without permission. For a nation of animal lovers, the statistics were a wake-up call.
The response Battersea had, both across England and Wales and then from Scots when we launched our Scottish campaign in August, was loud and clear - people would no longer tolerate these weak punishments. In less than eight months, almost 62,000 people contacted their elected representative asking them to back our campaign, and 145 politicians from Westminster and Holyrood pledged their support.
And the Governments listened. First in Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last month announced that the Scottish Government would seek to increase their maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years. The impact of their actions undoubtedly led in part to England following suit just weeks later and now all eyes are on Wales to show their commitment to tackling animal cruelty.
We are so grateful for the support we have received in our campaign so far, not least from Paul O'Grady, Ricky Gervais, Tracey Ullman, Sue Perkins, and Harry Hill, the well-known faces who have helped raise the profile of this campaign to millions of people UK-wide. We know they, and many thousands of animal lovers across the UK will be as thrilled by this week's news as us. This issue really has struck a chord with the public. Now we need the legislation to make these changes happen.
The Government will consult in England later this year and we await full details with great interest. While the events of the past month represent a huge step forwards for animals, we should not underestimate the journey ahead of us. Keep an eye on our website, www.battersea.org.uk/NotFunny, and follow the #NotFunny hashtag on Twitter for the latest news on our campaign.
This is a relatively simple change to the law, and there is clear political will on all sides to get it done. It's vital that this momentum is not lost and we see five-year sentences as soon as possible.