Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill 2017 Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The Pre-legislative scrutiny process

1.The concepts enshrined in the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill are important and worthwhile. They deserve better than to be treated in a cavalier fashion yet the impression given to us is one of haste. It appears that this draft Bill has been presented to the public - and Parliament - in a far from finished state. Many of the key concepts in the Bill remain undefined, so limiting the value of our scrutiny, while the lack of a formal regulatory impact assessment is a further troubling matter. The absence of such a document further emphasises the impression that this legislation has not been properly thought through before publication. We recommend that the Government produce a regulatory impact assessment for this Bill in response to this Report, and before the Bill is introduced to Parliament. (Paragraph 7)

Clause 2 of the Bill: sentencing provisions

2.The Crown Court generally has a busier workload than the magistrates’ courts and cases usually take longer to come before it. The sentencing provisions of Clause 2 will lead to an increased number of animal welfare cases before the Crown Court. This will therefore increase both the number of animals held in kennels for long periods of time and the amount of time such animals are held with consequent welfare impacts on the animals and, presumably, an increased charge on the public purse. The regulatory impact assessment we have recommended be produced such provide an estimate of these costs and impacts as well as an indication of the steps the Government is considering to alleviate them. (Paragraph 13)

3.In November 2016, our predecessor Committee called very strongly for the introduction of a five-year maximum sentence for animal cruelty. We are pleased to see our recommendation acted upon by the Government. In so doing, the Government has taken a positive step toward bringing England and Wales into line with Northern Ireland and therefore realising the Secretary of State’s vision of setting a “global gold standard”. (Paragraph 17)

4.We question why the Government has restricted its efforts to increasing sentences for offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 but has not taken this opportunity to increase sentences for other breaches of animal welfare in other legislation or introduce other welcome measures such as those announced as under consideration on 22 December 2017. A true “gold standard” in animal welfare will require the introduction of legislation which will increase sentencing across the board. (Paragraph 18)

5.We recommend that the draft Bill be amended to increase sentences for animal welfare offences other than just those contained in the 2006 Animal Welfare Act. This revised Bill should include, but not be limited to, provisions to increase sentencing for those offences referred to in Defra’s announcement of 22 December 2017 which drew heavily on our predecessor Committee’s Report, Animal welfare in England: domestic pets. (Paragraph 19)

Clause 1 of the Bill: Recognition of animal sentience

6.As strong advocates of the need for a five-year maximum sentence for animal cruelty we worry that the vagueness and ambiguity of the purpose and meaning of Clause 1 of this draft Bill will impede and delay the introduction of this measure. (Paragraph 45)

7.We recommend that the Government separate Clause 1 of this draft Bill entirely, and proceed with the Bill as the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, incorporating the changes we recommend in paragraph 19. Introducing legislation which increased sentencing for animal welfare offences across the board should do more for the rights and welfare of animals as sentient beings than the measure contained in Clause 1 of this draft Bill. (Paragraph 46)

8.We further recommend that another, separate piece of legislation on animal sentience be introduced. This new piece of legislation will allow the problematic concepts in the existing Clause 1 to be better defined, clarify the accountability mechanisms to be applied and should remedy some of the other existing inconsistencies in present statute - such as the status of octopus and cephalopods - that we have highlighted in our scrutiny. We would be delighted to undertake further pre-legislative scrutiny on this putative stand-alone “Animal Sentience” Bill. (Paragraph 47)

31 January 2018