The Centre for Crime Prevention called for the maximum sentence for animal abusers to be increased from six months to five years, after a worrying report which discovered that of 13,862 offenders found guilty in England and Wales from 2005 to 2015, more than 92% avoided prison.
Of those convicted or cautioned for animal cruelty during the period, 1,063 received a prison sentence. A third (34%) of them instead received a community service order, while a quarter (24%) were punished with a fine. The report also found that fines themselves have fallen from an average of £479 in 2005 to £296 in 2016.
Peter Cuthbertson, director of the Centre for Crime Prevention, commented:
“It’s been 10 years since the last time animal cruelty was looked at. Why is it Britain is so far behind? Northern Ireland has five years as the maximum sentence. That is about right. It maybe should be higher but it certainly shouldn’t be six months.”
The report brought up multiple cases of questionable sentencing, such as a man from Lancashire who was only fined £270 for putting his wife’s cat in the tumble dryer, as well as brothers Andrew and Daniel Frankish from Redcar, who were handed suspended sentences after filming themselves attacking a bulldog. In another case, Jennifer Lampe from Shropshire was given a suspended sentence for decapitating two pet snakes and trying to swallow their heads.
Caroline Allen, veterinary director at the RSPCA’s Harmsworth Animal Hospital in north London, described some of the horrific cases she’s seen:
“We’ve seen a dog that’s been attacked by someone using a machete. We had a pregnant Staffordshire bull terrier that was stabbed in the abdomen; fortunately, the puppies were saved. Collars that have grown in and caused horrendous wounds, cats thrown out of windows resulting in broken legs.”
David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, called on the Government to bring laws on animal cruelty into line with other countries.
He said: “We see lots of horrific things during our day-to-day work and it gets frustrating when that goes to court and the judge says he’d like to give a stronger sentence but ‘I can’t because I’m limited by the laws’.”
Responding to questions in the House of Commons on 20 July, the secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, said:
“I am not someone who will automatically reach for stronger criminal sanctions as the only route to dealing with a problem. But there are particular cases of animal cruelty where we may well need to revisit the existing criminal sanctions to ensure that the very worst behaviour is dealt with using the full force of the law.”