Tougher penalties against those who harm animals look certain to be fast-tracked after Prime Minister John Key last night said his government would consider the controversial issue at Tuesday's caucus meeting.
A spokesman for Key said: "The prime minister has been appalled by the recent animal cruelty cases."
Key's intervention means the government is likely to adopt National MP Simon Bridges' private member's bill, which proposes increasing the maximum jail term for animal cruelty from three years to five. If the government fails to act, Bridges' bill could be debated in parliament only if it is drawn, lottery-style, from a ballot.
Key's spokesman indicated the government would move quickly. "The government supports ensuring we have appropriate measures to deal with these issues. The Simon Bridges member's bill will be considered for adoption as a government bill at an upcoming caucus."
We had earlier blogged that Bridges would be lobbying his collegaues when caucus met for the first time on Tuesday; now that seems like a fait accompli, and we're delighted. It's a no-brainer for the government, especially with the slew of animal cruelty cases this week, but it's great that John Key has stepped in and effectively ensured the passage of Bridges' measure. It is legislation which we are sure will enjoy wide, if not unanimous support across party lines.
But when the government does adopt this bill, let's hope that Simon Bridges features prominently on its allocated list of speakers in support. After all, he is the one who took the initiative to ensure that those who abuse animals receive an appropriate punishment.