The recently-proposed animal welfare bill will fuel the growth of the pet insurance market, according to Sainsbury's Bank.

The draft Bill, which was announced by the government last month, defines animal cruelty for the first time.

The Bill would also increase the maximum penalty for cruelty from six months imprisonment or a £5,000 fine to 51 weeks in prison and a £20,000 fine.

Sainsbury's said the bill would "place greater focus" on the responsibilities of pet owning, potentially increasing sales of pet cover.

"We believe that as the cost of treatment increases and a greater emphasis is placed on the well-being of animals, sales of pet insurance could increase," Sainsbury's Bank pet insurance manager David Pickett said.

Pickett added that the potential for growth in the pet insurance market was considerable.

He said: "Pet owners currently spend about £1.24bn a year on vets' fees - despite this, only about 12% of pets are insured."