Tougher sentences and harsher punishments are the main points of the Animal Welfare Bill, introduced to parliament last Thursday (13 October).

Other than bringing together various pieces of legislation (20 in total), such as the Agriculture Act and the Animal Health & Welfare strategy, the Bill does not constitute a major change for agriculture.

But those convicted of an offence face the prospect of longer custodial sentences and increased financial penalties or both.

Under the new law the maximum penalties for cruelty and animal fighting offences is imprisonment for up to 51 weeks or a fine of up to 20,000 or both.

Currently those convicted of the most serious offences under the 1911 Act can only be sent to prison for up to six months or fined up to 5000, or both.