Consultation on the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill

Closed 31 Jan 2018

Opened 12 Dec 2017


This consultation seeks views on the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill. The Bill reflects the principle of animal sentience in domestic law and increases the maximum sentences for animal cruelty tenfold, from six months to five years in England and Wales.

This draft Bill will embed the principle that animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and pleasure. It contains an obligation, directed towards government, to pay regard to the welfare needs of animals when formulating and implementing government policy.  

The animal sentience provisions do not apply to policies which have been devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The devolved administrations have the ability to take the same steps as we are proposing in devolved areas if they wish to do so.

The Bill will also give the courts the tools they need to deal with abhorrent acts of animal cruelty.  This draft Bill increases the maximum penalty for animal welfare offences in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 from six months to five years’ imprisonment.

This applies to the most serious offences under the Act – causing unnecessary suffering, illegally mutilating an animal, illegally docking a dog’s tail, illegal poisoning and encouraging an animal fight.  The proposed increased maximum penalties will also apply to convictions relating to attacks on service animals, including guide dogs, police and military dogs. This provision will apply in England and Wales.

The draft Bill will be subject to a seven week consultation, ending on 31st January.

We want to hear your views on these proposals. The easiest way to give us your opinion is by using the survey below.

Alternatively, you can:

  • Write to us at: Animal Welfare Team, Area 5B, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR 


  • Charities/Voluntary Organisations
  • Animal welfare campaigners


  • Animals
  • DEFRA Policy
  • Animal welfare
  • Protecting pets from cruelty
  • Wildlife crime