People found guilty of the worst cases of animal cruelty could go to jail for a lot longer under new laws proposed in England and Wales.
At the moment the maximum term somebody can be jailed for if found guilty of the crime is six months.
However, if a new parliamentary bill proposed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove is passed, this could increase to five years.
This would make the UK one of the toughest countries in Europe for punishing animal abusers.
The harshest sentences would be given to those who abuse puppies and kittens, for dog fighting and gross neglect of farm animals.
The new bill comes with backing from 70 per cent of the public, as well as a number of judges and courts, who indicated they wanted to inflict harsher sentences on those who abuse animals.
Toughest sentences in Europe
Mr Gove said he was committed to making the UK the “best place in the world for the care and protection of animals.”
He added: "There is no place in this country for animal cruelty. That is why I want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law."
In 2018, the RSPCA received a call reporting animal cruelty every 27 seconds.
Rescue centres have supported the bill in the hope that it acts as a deterrent and reduces the number of cases of animal abuse.
Claire Horton, chief executive of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, hailed the Bill as a “landmark achievement”.
She said: “We, and many other rescue centres, see shocking cases of cruelty and neglect come through our gates and there are many more animals that are dumped and don’t even make it off the streets”
The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill compliments the so-called ‘Finn’s Law’, which aims to provide more protection to service dogs and horses, also carrying a five year sentence for abusers.
It is named after German shepherd Finn who was stabbed and seriously hurt as he protected his handler - PC Dave Wardell - from an attack in 2016.
PC Wardell, who is still a serving officer, campaigned for the law following the attack, even going on Britain’s Got Talent to raise awareness.
"This law is the only reason I put myself on stage in front of nine million people," said PC Wardell, who is still a serving officer.