All 1 Elliot Colburn contributions to the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2019-21

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Fri 23rd Oct 2020
Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & 2nd reading

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons
Friday 23rd October 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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I support the Bill, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) on securing a position in the private Members’ Bill ballot. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to discuss these issues. I would like to pay particular tribute to the animal welfare charities that have been lobbying hard on this issue for many years, including Cats Protection and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, both of which I have had the pleasure of speaking to over the last couple of months; I made it clear to them that I would be here today to support my hon. Friend in taking forward this important Bill. I also pay tribute to the amazing animal welfare charities in my constituency, such as Wallington Animal Rescue, which has done incredible work to look after animals at a local level.

This Bill is incredibly important to me, because, like so many other Members here today, I am a pet owner, and I have been blessed to be in a home with animals ever since I was a child. It began with just a few rabbits—that is all I could manage, according to my parents—and then when I became a teenager, we were given the opportunity to own a dog for the first time. Nothing brings more joy to a family’s life than bringing a pet into their home, and I recommend it to anyone who does not yet own one.

I was lucky a few years ago to meet Jed, who—I should probably clarify, given the topic we are debating—is not an animal. [Interruption.] I will leave that to my hon. Friends’ imagination. I had no idea that, in agreeing to marry Jed and let him into my life, I would be taking on responsibility for looking after not only two additional dogs, Willow and Lola, but also horses, sheep, pigs and—Jed’s real passion—chickens and ducks. It is more animals than I ever thought I would have in a lifetime, but they are part of the family, and I love having them.

I want to talk about the first dogs that arrived in our lives, Snoopy and Jazz, who were both rescues from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. It is hard to believe from meeting him, but Snoopy was an unwanted Christmas present and ended up in Battersea after being left there by a previous owner. Snoopy and Jazz, like so many other residents of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, were Staffordshire bull terriers, which sadly have quite a bad reputation across the country. They are seen as somehow more violent and as inappropriate pets, whereas anyone who has ever owned one will tell you that they are some of the most loving dogs you can have. I am so pleased that they were named the UK’s favourite breed of dog last year.

Bob Stewart Portrait Bob Stewart
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There are no bad dogs; there are bad owners, and dogs take after their owners when they do something very bad.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. It is a testament to the work that animal charities such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home do that they are able to find new, loving, permanent homes for dogs like Snoopy and Jazz.

Jazz came to us because she had been passed around many different homes—she had been to around three or four—because some of her previous owners had found her behaviour challenging. She was described as a “bin raider” when we took her on, and I can confirm that that description was accurate. Sadly, some of the behaviour that she displayed when we took her on, particularly her apparent fear of men, suggested to Battersea, when eventually it let us take Jazz home, that she had probably been subject to some level of abuse in the past. I am pleased that we managed to give Jazz a good home and that she is still with us today.

I know just how devastated my family and I would be if any of our animals were to be taken from us and abused by others. Unfortunately, there were a number of quite high-profile animal-abuse cases involving cats in my constituency and surrounding areas—the Minister may know of this already. What is known as the “Croydon cat killer” case started a few years ago; unfortunately, it is still an open investigation and we are no closer to finding the truth. It started off in Croydon, funnily enough—it got its name from the borough bordering my constituency—but this spate of cat killings, which involved cats being beheaded, spread to other parts of south London, including Carshalton and Wallington.

There was an investigation and the conclusion was that it was down to urban foxes. The cats’ owners find that a bit fanciful, and I have to say that I agree. The pattern of behaviour, particularly the cats being beheaded and left there, with no evidence of their being eaten, does not suggest to me that it was urban foxes. It suggests to me that systematic abuse is going on, and I sincerely hope that the investigations can be reopened and that the cats’ owners can get a bit of justice and a bit of an answer as to what happened to their beloved pets.

Let me bring my remarks back to the Bill. As we heard in earlier contributions, it is evident that a six-month sentence is certainly not enough. If we look into the statistics in a bit more detail, we see that in the past 10 years only 6% to 11% of all people convicted of animal cruelty offences were given an immediate custodial sentence. The current maximum sentence is clearly not a deterrent, which is why I fully support the measures in the Bill to increase sentences to five years. Notwithstanding the concerns that we have heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Southend West (Sir David Amess) and for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope), who are no longer in their places, I think that will go a long way towards acting as a deterrent to people who want to commit these heinous crimes.

I am very pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset has brought the House together today. I fully support the Bill and look forward to seeing it through to Royal Assent.