Battersea’s cruelty campaign makes its mark as Government admits need for tougher penalties

21 JULY 2017

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home today welcomes the Government’s acknowledgement that the current punishments for the most shocking animal cruelty offences are inadequate and now require “the full force of the law”.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, stated in the House of Commons on Thursday and reiterated in a speech on Friday that the current penalties for such offences are not strong enough. 

Admitting this is an issue he feels strongly about, Michael Gove said: “I am not someone who will automatically reach for stronger criminal sanctions as the only route to dealing with a particular problem, but there are particular cases of animal cruelty where we may well need to revisit the existing criminal sanctions in order to ensure that the very worst behaviour is dealt with, with the full force of the law.”

Battersea launched a campaign in February calling for an increase in the maximum sentence in England and Wales for the worst cases of cruelty to animals, from just six months to five years.

The charity has gathered incredible support for highlighting the issue, including from some of the UK’s best-loved comedians such as Paul O’Grady, Ricky Gervais and Sue Perkins, who agree such acts of cruelty are #NotFunny. More than 50,000 people have so far contacted their MP to call for stronger sentences and 79 MPs have already done so.

Commenting on the Secretary of State’s speech today, Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton, said: “Battersea welcome’s the Government’s apparent change of heart on this vital welfare issue and it’s very encouraging to see Mr Gove acknowledge that some of the sickening animal cruelty cases that pass through our courts are not being properly punished, offering no deterrent for serious offenders. Battersea wants the maximum sentence to be increased to five years.

“It’s heart warming to note that the Secretary of State feels strongly about such cruelty to animals and we have invited Mr Gove to visit Battersea to see first-hand some of the animals in our care who are the innocent victims of such abuse and cruelty.”

Earlier this year, Battersea rescued an emaciated dog named Stewart, who we believe had been kept indoors and deliberately starved. He was in such an awful state, he shocked Battersea’s most experienced staff, as he required months of care and a painstaking feeding regime to turn his life around and bring him back to a healthy weight. 

Claire Horton added: “Thanks to the hourly care Stewart received at Battersea, he found a loving new home – but many animals are not fortunate enough to receive this second chance in life. The people that did this to Stewart didn’t even go to prison and six months as a maximum penalty for deliberate cruelty is a joke and this must change.” 

For more information on Battersea’s campaign for tougher penalties or to contact your MP to ask them to support five-year sentences for animal cruelty, visit

Notes to Editors

  • Visit or use the hashtag #NotFunny on Twitter to follow the campaign
  • The maximum sentence for animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is only six months in prison in England and Wales and just 12 months in Scotland, compared to two years in France, three years in Germany and five years in both Ireland and Northern Ireland
  • In 2016, 1,401 people were convicted of offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
  • Battersea published a new report, Sentencing for animal cruelty in England and Wales, on 20 February 2017.
  • Established in 1860, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home aims never to turn away a dog or cat in need of our help, caring for them until their owners or loving new homes can be found, no matter how long it takes. We are champions for, and supporters of, vulnerable dogs and cats, determined to create lasting changes for animals in our society.  
  • Since it was founded, Battersea has rescued, reunited and rehomed over 3.1 million dogs and cats. 
  • In 2016 the Home cared for over 7,000 dogs and cats.