Crime but no punishment: Battersea launches campaign for tougher sentences for serious animal cruelty

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has today (20 Feb) launched a major campaign calling for harsher punishments for people who seriously abuse animals.

The maximum sentence for even the most extreme cases of animal cruelty in England and Wales is just six months in prison - the lowest across Europe, the United States and Australia. Battersea would like to see this raised to five years.

Battersea’s campaign for tougher penalties was launched in Westminster today by its Chief Executive, Claire Horton, who said: 

“Battersea’s research into extreme animal cruelty tells us the sentences handed out are actually no punishment at all. We and many other rescue centres see shocking cases of cruelty and neglect come through our gates and there are many more that are dumped and don’t even make it off the streets. These are the dogs and cats we’re speaking out for today.

“We looked at 100 different jurisdictions across the world and England and Wales’ maximum six-month sentence is the lowest, lagging far behind countries like Ireland at five years and Germany at three years. It would be laughable if it weren’t so shocking.”

Last year a London man admitted torturing and killing nine puppies after local vets became suspicious and raised the alarm. He had beaten, stabbed and sprayed bleach in the puppies’ eyes. The strangled body of another was found in a bin. After an RSPCA investigation, he received the maximum sentence possible - just six months in prison.

In another case, two brothers from Teesside admitted animal cruelty after they were filmed beating their pet Bulldog and throwing her down a flight of stairs. The Bulldog died from her injuries but they walked free from court with a suspended sentence of 21 weeks. The local MP in this area, Anna Turley, was so incensed by the crime, she has raised a Bill in Parliament to increase sentences, which will be debated on Friday, 24 February.

Claire Horton continued: “It isn’t acceptable that our courts are unable to hand out tougher sentences in such extreme animal cruelty cases, yet the likes of fly-tipping can result in prison sentences of up to five years. So let’s get this into proportion and let the punishment for abusing animals truly fit the crime.”

Battersea and other animal welfare charities care for such victims of wilful cruelty and neglect, with some making remarkable recoveries under the care of the charity's Veterinary team. These include Tiger, a tabby cat brought into Battersea in January, where the Veterinary team discovered he had been shot in the head at close range with an air gun. Two metal pellets were found lodged in his skull and, had they been any closer to his brain, would have proved fatal. During delicate surgery, Battersea’s vets were able to carefully remove the pellets without causing further damage and Tiger has now recovered. 

Claire Horton added: "For every abused dog or cat like Tiger we can help, there are many more we’ll never get to see. A few weeks in prison or walking free from court with a fine isn’t enough, either as a punishment or a deterrent. It’s time to stand up for such animals and bring in tougher sentences.”

To join Battersea's campaign, visit www.battersea.org.uk/betheirvoice and use the hashtag #NotFunny on Twitter. 

Ends

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 has published a new report, Sentencing for animal cruelty in England and Wales, today (20 February 2017).
•    Redcar MP Anna Turley is raising a Bill in Parliament to increase animal cruelty sentences, to be debated on Friday, 24 February.
•    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.