Of all the issues I’m contacted about by constituents in my Barnsley East constituency, animal welfare is amongst the most frequently brought up.
Animals hold a special place in all of our lives, giving so many of us unconditional comfort, companionship and happiness.
It’s why there are an estimated 20m pets in the UK, with 1 in 2 households – including my own – shared with a pet.
I’m extremely proud of the previous Labour Government’s record when it comes to animal welfare.
This includes Labour’s 2006 Animal Welfare Act, described by the RSPCA as the single most important piece of animal welfare legislation for nearly 100 years.
But it’s also why I feel so sickened every time I hear about the shocking number of animal cruelty cases committed across the country.
Every year, the RSPCA investigates around 150,000 cases of alleged animal cruelty UK, giving an indication of how widespread this shocking act is.
Indeed, in South Yorkshire the number of complaints investigated in 2016 was 4,806. This demonstrates a disconcerting rise of nearly 8% from 2015, in which there were 4,466 complaints.
Calls to the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty hotline also rose last year by nearly 4%, meaning on average a report of animal cruelty was made every 27 seconds.
These figures are shocking, and a stark indication that animal cruelty still remains a problem in Barnsley and across South Yorkshire.
But it’s important to note that the increase in reported acts are also cause for optimism.
The rise in complaints shows people are less willing to stand by, and are increasingly prepared to report allegations of animal cruelty where they suspect it.
The RSPCA do a truly incredible job, but they can’t do it without our help. That’s why it’s heartening to see so many people are not willing to let this distressing problem continue.
For every criminal who perpetrates such an act there are countless more who want to bring them to justice and stop the cruelty to our beloved pets and animals.
So I commend those who help, whilst acknowledging we still must do more. I would urge anyone who thinks animal is suffering to call the RSPCA’s cruelty line and help put an end to this shameful practice.
People can report cruelty towards an animal to the RSPCA by calling the charity’s 24-hour hotline on 0300 1234 999.