East Belfast MLA Mr Lyttle was speaking following questions to the Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill in the Assembly, during which she confirmed she had been working with Justice Minister David Ford to review the 2011 Welfare of Animals Act, particularly sentencing guidelines and practices.
With primary legislation needed to amend the Act, the Justice Minister is set to do so through the Justice (No. 2) Bill, currently making its way through the Assembly. It will mean Northern Ireland will have the toughest animal welfare laws in the UK or Ireland.
“I welcome Minister O’Neill working together with the Minister of Justice to respond to an issue of serious public concern. Alliance has continuously raised the issue of animal welfare and led the way on calling for sentences to be increased in cases of cruelty.
“The Minister of Justice being in a position to bring forward amendments to the Act means animal welfare crimes will now be treated with the seriousness they deserve. Strong laws are of little value without effective enforcement.
“A number of high-profile cases in my own constituency have shown the public revulsion at animal cruelty cases and perceived lenient sentences. This is a chance to make the punishments fit the crimes.