Eleven British-based animal charities met Lord Randall on Monday to call for the Government to increase sentences for animal cruelty.
Under current legislation, those who commit the worst animal cruelty offences can receive a maximum prison sentence of only six months.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove first announced the Government’s intention to increase maximum prison sentences from six months to five years in September 2017. Despite promises and assurances by the Government to amend the Animal Welfare Act, and the policy being announced at two consecutive Conservative Party conferences, the change has yet to be made.
The UK Government’s pledge would bring England into line with other European countries.
Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, said that the majority of equine cases that are prosecuted do not meet the requirements for a prison sentence – those that do include cases where there has been a deliberate attempt to cause suffering or there is ill-treatment in a commercial context.
“However, this pledge will give judges a greater range of options for cases which do meet the requirements for a prison sentence. We believe this will encourage tougher – and more proportionate – sentences to be given for serious animal cruelty offences and act as a proper deterrent to those who abuse horses,” Owers said.
“The Amersham case of 2009 remains one of the worst cases of equine cruelty seen, with over 100 animals suffering prolonged neglect and living in squalid conditions and 32 sadly found dead on the premises. The dealer responsible was sentenced to the maximum time allowed, 24 weeks in prison, and given a lifetime ban. The proposed change to the law would ensure that if an equivalent case was tried the sentence handed out could better reflect the seriousness of the crime.”
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said it had been more than 18 months since the Government pledged to increase penalties for the most serious cases of animal cruelty, “and we’re still waiting for them to fulfill their promise”.
“During that time, animals have been shot, stabbed, set on fire, drowned, beaten and left to starve to death. A maximum sentence of six months in prison for beating a dog to death with a shovel or throwing a cat off the roof of a building simply isn’t enough. The courts need to have longer sentences at their disposal for the worst animal abusers – and they need these powers as soon as possible.”
The 11 organisations at the meeting in 10 Downing Street were represented by:
- Claire Horton, Chief Executive, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
- Steve Goody, Deputy CEO & COO, Blue Cross
- James Yeates, Chief Executive, Cats Protection
- Dr Nick Palmer, Head of UK, Compassion in World Farming
- Paula Boyden, Veterinary and Campaigns Director, Dogs Trust
- Claire Bass, Executive Director, Humane Society International UK
- David Cowdrey, Head of Policy and Campaigns, International Fund for Animal Welfare
- Andrew Knott, Chief Executive, League Against Cruel Sports
- Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive, RSPCA
- Paula Sparks, Chair, UK Centre for Animal Law
- Roly Owers, Chief Executive, World Horse Welfare