Let the punishment fit the crime: Battersea calls for five-year sentences for animal cruelty in Scotland

  • New Battersea research shows Scotland’s 12-month maximum prison sentence is one of the lowest in Europe
  • Under current laws, offenders in Scotland could get more for dumping litter than they would for torturing or killing an animal

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is calling on the Scottish public and the nation’s politicians to join its campaign for tougher punishments for the most shocking cases of animal cruelty.

The much-loved animal charity has been at the heart of companion animal welfare for over 150 years and today it publishes new research revealing Scotland's maximum punishments for animal cruelty are alarmingly low compared to the rest of Europe, the United States and Australia.

Only a handful of nations, including England and Wales, have lower sentences, in sharp contrast to Ireland and Northern Ireland, where the maximum sentence is already five years.

Battersea is well known in Scotland for championing and supporting vulnerable and unwanted dogs and cats and for its determination to create lasting changes for such animals in our society.

The charity is seeing signs of a momentum building in Scotland in support of such tougher sentences. It hopes more and more animal-loving Scots will get behind its call to persuade MSPs in all Scottish political parties to back a change in the law.

Battersea Director, Dee McIntosh said: “Scots like to see justice be done and play a part in righting some of society’s wrongs. And Battersea believes this can only help to build the momentum to get the law changed in Scotland to five years for animal cruelty. We now need all of Scotland’s politicians to make this change.”

Battersea is appealing to Scots to contact their MSPs to call for the 12-month maximum sentence to be increased to five years for the most serious animal cruelty offences, bringing it in line with Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Dee McIntosh added: “Scots may remember the horrific photographs of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier tied to a piece of concrete and left to drown in a Lanarkshire pond in 2015.

“Nobody was convicted of that dreadful offence and even if they had been, is it right that they would have received less time in prison for drowning that poor dog than for dumping commercial litter? It would be laughable if it wasn’t so shocking.”

Battersea’s research has highlighted other compelling examples of animal cruelty, including a man who admitted torturing his pet cat to death in Fife last year. Filmed beating and biting the animal, he was sentenced to just eight months in prison. The Sheriff called his actions "disgraceful" and said he wanted to impose the maximum 12-month sentence but the offender's guilty plea forced him to reduce it.

Dee McIntosh continued: "Terrible cases like these show that the Scottish courts are doing their best to hand down the toughest sentences they can but the powers currently available to them make it impossible for the punishment to fit the crime.

“Battersea believes it’s time for a change north and south of the border. We’ve been campaigning for a five-year sentence in England and Wales, where courts can only give an offender six months in prison. Scotland has an impressive track record of changing its laws on key issues ahead of some other nation, so let’s ask all MSPs to do that for animal cruelty as well.”

Rona Mackay, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden and Deputy Convenor of the Justice Committee, is one of the politicians supporting the call for tougher animal cruelty sentences.

She said: ‘I am very much in favour of exploring opportunities to increase the sentencing for those charged with crimes of cruelty to animals.  We need to send out a strong message that these vile crimes against defenceless animals are unacceptable, and we need to put it into perspective of all types of violent crime.”

For more information, visit notfunny.battersea.org.uk. Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in Scotland, can be found here.

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For more information and images please contact 020 7627 9332 or email press@battersea.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  • Visit notfunny.battersea.org.uk or use the hashtag #NotFunny on Twitter to follow the campaign
  • Battersea launched a campaign to increase the six-month maximum sentence in England and Wales to five years in February. So far, more than 57,000 people have signed up to back it and 88 MPs have pledged their support.
  • 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
  • Top comedians Paul O’Grady, Ricky Gervais, Sue Perkins, Harry Hill and Tracey Ullman are all backing Battersea’s campaign
  • 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.