Battersea speaks out about inadequate sentence for Redcar dog’s “unimaginable suffering”

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is today using its voice to criticise the four-month sentence handed down to two men who admitted horrific acts of cruelty against a 16-year-old Terrier.

The charity is appealing to the public to condemn such unacceptable cruelty and make our collective voice heard, to call for much tougher sentences and ensure the punishment fits the crime.

Richard Finch, 60, and Michael Heathcock, 59, both admitted charges relating to the death of the dog, called Scamp, at Teesside Magistrates’ Court. By pleading guilty, today (1 March 2017) they received a reduced sentence of just four months in prison. 

The Redcar sentencing comes just nine days after Battersea launched a major campaign in Parliament calling for an increase in the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences in England and Wales to five years in prison.

The world-renowned charity’s research, Sentencing for animal cruelty in England and Wales, reveals England and Wales’ current maximum sentence of six months in prison and an unlimited fine is the lowest across Europe, the United States and Australia.

Commenting on today’s Redcar sentence, Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton, said: “The unimaginable suffering Scamp endured at the hands of his owner, a person he should have been able to trust implicitly, will horrify the nation.

"The two men responsible have been sentenced to just four months in prison. Why? Because magistrates are unable to issue anything more than six months for even the most appalling and callous acts of animal cruelty. England and Wales’ maximum sentence simply must change. Four months for what was done to Scamp is neither a fitting punishment nor a deterrent.

“Animal lovers will surely want to come together and join Battersea and other respected animal welfare charities so we can make our collective voice heard for animals like Scamp. 

“Our tougher sentencing campaign is already making its mark. We're asking the public to write to their MP and call for a five-year sentence for such shocking acts of cruelty as we need the punishment to fit the crime.”

Heathcock had pleaded guilty to driving a nail into Scamp’s skull when the Terrier was still alive, as well as failing to provide veterinary care and attention to the dog. He claimed he was unable to afford euthanasia. Finch admitted assisting in the act.

Dog walkers found 16-year-old Scamp whimpering in a shallow grave and rushed him to a Redcar vet but his injuries were so severe he had to be put to sleep. 

Visit www.battersea.org.uk/betheirvoice and help us speak out for animals like Scamp.

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Notes to Editors

  • Visit www.battersea.org.uk/betheirvoice 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 2015, 933 people were convicted of animal cruelty in England and Wales
  • The average length of sentence in 2015 for animal cruelty was 3.3 months, against an absolute maximum of six months
  • Battersea published a new report, Sentencing for animal cruelty in England and Wales, on 20 February 2017.
  • Redcar MP Anna Turley is raising a Bill in Parliament to increase animal cruelty sentences. It is relisted for 24 March.
  • 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 2015 the Home cared for over 8,000 dogs and cats. 
  • Battersea cares for an average of 260 dogs and 220 cats across its three centres at any one time.