A crackdown on animal suffering is at the core of new Government legislation unveiled today.
The landmark Animal Welfare Bill is being hailed by ministers as the most significant piece of legislation in this area for nearly a century.
It introduces a duty on those responsible for animals to do all that is reasonable to ensure the welfare of the creatures in their care - a duty which for the first time applies to non-farmed animals.
Suffering will be reduced by enabling preventive action to be taken before harm occurs.
The Bill also simplifies animal welfare legislation for enforcers and animal keepers by bringing more than 20 pieces of legislation into one.
The aim is also to deter persistent offenders by strengthening penalties and eliminating loopholes.
Those causing unnecessary suffering to an animal will face up to 51 weeks in prison, a fine of up to £20,000 or both.
Power to make secondary legislation will be extended and current licensing powers will be in one place.
There is also an extension to companion animals of the use of welfare codes agreed by Parliament, a mechanism currently used to ensure the welfare of farmed animals.
Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "Once the legislation is enacted our law will be worthy of our reputation as a nation of animal lovers.
"We are raising standards of animal welfare. Anyone who is responsible for an animal will have to do all that is reasonable to meet the needs of their animal.
"This is a much more appropriate way to ensure an animal's welfare than relying on a 94-year-old law that was only designed to prevent outright cruelty.
"The vast majority of pet owners and others involved with the care of animals have nothing to fear from this legislation. This Bill is aimed at those few who do not properly fulfil their responsibilities for the animals in their charge.
"This Bill will make a real difference to the lives of domestic and kept animals in England and Wales. I expect to have wide support across the country and in Parliament."Reuse content