A new law, which significantly increases the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty in Scotland from one to five years, came into effect on July 23 after receiving Royal Assent from the Queen.

After years of campaigning by animal welfare groups, Scottish penalties will now be in line with those of many other European countries.

“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,” said Battersea’s Chief Executive Claire Horton. “We are thrilled with this change in the law.

“This is the final piece of the puzzle,” she continued. “It’s been a very long journey to make the punishment fit the crime – it will act as a proper deterrent and protect animals from those who would abuse and mistreat them.”

In England and Wales, however, the maximum punishment is still only six months – the lowest penalty in all of Europe. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which would increase animal cruelty prison sentences, has been repeatedly postponed, even though the UK Government pledged its support over three years ago.

“The Scottish Government has now delivered their promise on tackling animal cruelty,” said Horton. “It is now time Westminster stopped delaying and followed suit.”

The second reading for the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill is now scheduled to take place on October 23 of this year.