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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 11:57 GMT
Animal welfare laws toughened
Smiley (picture courtesy of the RSPCA)
The law would impose new penalties on animal cruelty
New penalties against cruelty will be part of the overhaul of animal welfare laws pledged in the Queen's Speech.

The government has already published draft plans and now it is promising a full-blown bill for England and Wales.

Dubbed as the biggest crackdown on animal cruelty in a century, the bill would impose a duty of care for anybody responsible for animals.

It could ban fun fairs from offering animals like goldfish as prizes. And laws on circus animals will be updated.

Care responsibilities

The key current cruelty laws date back to 1911 and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has been campaigning for changes to match modern attitudes.

There are more than 20 different pieces of animal welfare legislation. The reforms would bring them together in one bill.

The plans would make the keeper of an animal obliged to ensure its welfare, for example by allowing it food and water and housing it with its own species.

Farmers already have to keep to similar rules but the new bill would not govern scientific research using animals.

New fines

Penalties would be raised for the most serious animal cruelty offences - those relating to organised animal fighting, such as dog fighting.

The draft plans would raise maximum penalties from a six-month jail term and a 5,000 fine to a 51-week prison sentence and a 20,000 fine.

It has yet to be seen how many changes to the details will be made when the full bill is put to Parliament.

As well as updating the current rules on dog and cat kennels, performing animals, dog breeding, pet shops and riding stables, the bill would introduce regulations to animal sanctuaries, livery yards, pet fairs and racing greyhounds.

The RSPCA hopes the new laws will be enough to stop the use of animals in circuses.

The plans would give animal welfare inspectors new powers and the laws on banning people from keeping animals would also be reformed to close loopholes.




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