Battersea calls time on all Scottish political parties to get tough on animal cruelty


  • Today (Wednesday 20 September) MSPs from across the political spectrum will gather outside Parliament to offer cross-party support for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home’s campaign to increase sentences for the most shocking cases of animal cruelty.
  • The Scottish Government has pledged to increase the maximum prison sentence from 12 months to five years – but support from all parties is needed to ensure this becomes a reality.
  • Chermaine Letham from Fife - whose dog was burnt to death in a horrific act of animal cruelty – today backs Battersea’s campaign for tougher sentencing 
MSPs will join Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, outside Holyrood today to call for all politicians to support tougher sentences for animal cruelty.
Battersea published new research in August showing how Scotland has among the lowest sentences for animal cruelty in Europe, the United States and Australia. Only a few nations, including England and Wales have lower sentences, and under current laws offenders in Scotland could get more for dumping litter than they would for torturing or killing an animal.
The recent news that the Scottish Government is willing to increase sentences for the worst animal cruelty offences from twelve months to five years is warmly welcomed by Battersea and other animal welfare charities such as the Scottish SPCA, and momentum is building amongst Scots in favour of such tougher sentences.
The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP said today, “Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and we take the welfare of our pets, animals and livestock extremely seriously.  Animal cruelty is an emotive issue, which quite rightly causes concern among animal lovers and the general public.
“While sentencing is, of course, a matter for the courts, it is vital that we ensure they have the powers they need to deal with cases of animal cruelty. That is why I was delighted to hear of the warm welcome given by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to our recent commitment in our programme for Government to increase the maximum penalty for the most serious cruelty to animal offences.”
Crucially, the Scottish Government’s commitment will need support from across Parliament if it is to become a reality, which is why MSPs are asked to join Battersea and the Environment Secretary outside Parliament today, to show their cross-party support for five-year animal cruelty sentences.
Chermaine Letham from Fife has first-hand experience of seeing animal cruelty and today she backed Battersea’s campaign for tougher sentences. Her Staffordshire Bull Terrier Bruno was tortured and burnt to death in a shocking act of cruelty in 2014, yet the perpetrator was sentenced to just nine months in prison.
Chermaine said: “I know the sentence for animal cruelty in Scotland is far too low. Bruno wasn’t just my dog, he was my baby and he suffered horrifically. What happened to him broke me in half. I never thought I could feel pain like that and it’s made me terrified to get another dog. A nine-month sentence was outrageous, he should have got far longer. I just can’t imagine how anyone could have it in them to do that to an animal.” 
Battersea’s Chief Executive Claire Horton said: “What happened to Chermaine’s pet dog Bruno is shocking in the extreme and perpetrators who commit such acts of cruelty must know they will not be treated leniently in future."
“Battersea is encouraged that the Scottish Government have proposed to increase sentences for such animal cruelty in future, but we now need all parties on board, for this to become a reality. So we’re asking all Scottish politicians to stand up and be that voice for pets that suffer such abuse, by pledging to support five-year sentences for animal cruelty.”
Scots can play their part by contacting their own MSPs and calling on them to back an increase to the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years. Today’s Battersea event outside Parliament will also include dogs from Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and representatives from other animal welfare partner organisations such as the Scottish SPCA, Cats Protection, Blue Cross and the Kennel Club.
Claire Horton added: “126 MSPs and MPs have already pledged their support for Battersea’s campaign for tougher sentences. We want to encourage all animal-loving Scots to write to whoever represents them in Parliament and ask them to back our campaign. Every letter or e-mail you send is helping us build more support to have crimes against animals treated with the seriousness that they deserve.”
For more information, visit
Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in Scotland, can be found here.
Notes to Editors

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  • Visit or use the hashtag #NotFunny on Twitter to follow the campaign
  • The maximum sentence for animal cruelty under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 is just 12 months in Scotland, compared to two years in France, three years in Germany and five years in both Ireland and Northern Ireland
  • From 2011 to 2016, 522 people were convicted of animal cruelty offences under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006
  • Battersea launched a campaign to increase the twelve-month maximum sentence in Scotland to five years in August.
  • The maximum sentence for animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is only six months in prison in England and Wales.
  • Battersea launched a campaign to increase the six-month maximum sentence in England and Wales to five years in February.
  • So far, more than 60,400 people have signed up to back five year sentences and 126 MSPs and MPs have pledged their support.
  • 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 7000 dogs and cats.
  • Battersea cares for an average of 270 dogs and 200 cats across its three centres at any one time.
  • There are over 160,000 charities in the UK and according to YouGov,
  • Battersea is amongst the top ten best known. Battersea’s award-winning programme Paul O’Grady For the Love of Dogs is broadcast on STV. Now in its sixth year, the family favourite enjoyed 45 million viewers in 2016.