Sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty offences published and will come into effect on 1 July 2023

The Sentencing Council has published two guidelines for sentencing animal cruelty offences to reflect changes introduced by Parliament in the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021, following consultation.

The first guideline – Animal cruelty – is new and covers the most serious offences, for example causing unnecessary suffering, tail docking and animal fighting. It reflects the increase in maximum penalties for such offences from six months to five years’ custody. Because of the higher penalties, these most serious offences are now eligible to be tried in both magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court.

The second guideline – Failure to ensure animal welfare – is a revision of the Council’s existing guideline for animal cruelty offences. The guideline has been updated to ensure it is specific to the circumstances of offending likely to fall under section 9 of the Act. There has been no increase in penalty so the guideline will continue to apply to magistrates’ courts only.

Both guidelines have been developed following consultation and will come into effect on 1 July 2023.