Innocent animals continue to be stabbed, shot, poisoned and scalded by sadistic owners and vicious thugs in full knowledge that the courts only have slap-on-the-wrist powers.
Ministers have steadfastly refused MPs’ recommendations to increase the current paltry six-month maximum jail for cruelty to a punitive five years behind bars.
The Government faces calls to come down with harder punishments for animal abusers
Turning down the call for increased penalties, ministers say there is nothing to “suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate”.
The Express launched a Cruelty Crusade last year in light of soft sentences being handed down to animal abusers.
Tens of thousands have signed various petitions calling for jail time to be increased, and the influential Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee recommended five year terms last year.
Ministers have so far refused to increase minimum jail sentences
As a nation of animal lovers we should be leading the way when it comes to doing all we can to stamp out animal abuse
In the wake of ministers’ rejection, many of the country’s leading animal welfare groups today voiced their disappointment and warned of more horrific attacks on innocent pets and wildlife creatures.
Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “It’s so disappointing that the Government has chosen to not take on board the recommendations from a recent EFRA Committee Report regarding increased sentencing for those that choose to abuse animals.
“As a nation of animal lovers we should be leading the way when it comes to doing all we can to stamp out animal abuse, but England and Wales currently have some of the lowest penalties in Europe for anyone who chooses to hurt a defenceless animal.”
At the League Against Cruel Sports, chief executive Eduardo Gonçalves, explained how he has to witness some of the most horrific scenes of animal abuse imaginable.
He said: “If we don’t offer a serious punishment to animal abusers then they will continue abusing animals.
“I spend a lot of my time looking at horrific dog fighting footage as the League is working hard to stamp this out in the UK, but I know in the back of my mind that if we catch a dog fighter, the most they will get is six months in prison – and probably much less.
“That’s utterly inadequate and would be laughable if it wasn’t so shocking.”
The Dogs Trust says the current maximum sentences under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act are “woefully inadequate” and that it is disappointed that sentences have not been made more severe.
Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden added: “We strongly urge the government to increase the prison sentences available for animal cruelty offences in England to five years in order to reflect the seriousness of the offences that are sadly carried out on a daily basis.”
In its official response to the EFRA report, the Government points out that in 2015 a total of 936 people were sentenced for animal cruelty, with 91 given immediate jail time, while 202 received suspended prison sentences.
“Current sentencing practice for offences of animal cruelty in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 does not suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate,” it adds.
For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home such a response is hugely disappointing.
Its chief executive Claire Horton said: “The current sentence for such offences is inadequate, both as a punishment and a deterrent for those who mistreat and neglect animals to the point of unacceptable suffering.
“This is an issue that Battersea, along with other key animal welfare organisations, has regularly brought to the Government’s attention and we will continue to speak out on the need for sentences which properly fit the crime.”
While the RSPCA has been told by ministers that its powers to bring private prosecutions are not being withdrawn, it also remains concerned that criminals it brings before the courts are getting off lightly.
Jeremy Cooper, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: “We are disappointed the Government has decided to ignore the recommendation to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to five years.
“Our recent poll showed that seven out of 10 people want the Government to bring in longer jail time for the most serious cases of animal cruelty and neglect.
“Our inspectors investigate shocking incidents of animal cruelty such as animals being scalded with boiling water, stabbed, shot, poisoned or forced to fight to the death. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”