A new law increasing the maximum punishment for people convicted of animal cruelty from one year to five years took effect in Scotland this week, a month after the Scottish Parliament passed it unanimously.
Animal rights groups widely praised the move Thursday, according to U.K. media.
“We’ve long campaigned for many of the reforms contained in this new bill, including harsher punishments for animal cruelty,” Kirsteen Campbell, the CEO of the Scottish SPCA, told the Edinburgh Evening News. “We are hopeful increased sentencing and unlimited fines will act as a greater deterrent to people in mistreating animals.”
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Many other European countries already imposed a five-year prison sentence for animal cruelty crimes, the outlet reported, and animal charities had been lobbying for Scotland to do so, as well, for years.
The old sentence of just one year was one of the shortest maximum sentences for animal cruelty on the continent, according to Battersea, a U.K.-based charity.
In a news release, the nonprofit called the new law “a momentous day for animal welfare” and lauded the Scottish government for passing it.
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“We are thrilled with this change in the law,” said Claire Horton, Battersea’s chief executive. “Battersea, alongside the Scottish SPCA, other rescue organizations and members of the public, have been campaigning for a change in the law in Scotland since 2017.”
The five-year penalty falls in line with most European countries, according to the charity — but there are two notable exceptions: England and Wales, which impose just six-month sentences.
In the U.S. last year, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill making certain egregious acts of animal cruelty a federal crime, bolstering anti-cruelty laws that were already on the books in all 50 states. The bill also won unanimous support in both the House of Representatives and Senate last fall.
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The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT) prohibits extreme acts of cruelty, including intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impalement, carried out against “living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians.”