We’re not laughing: Comedians join Battersea to call for stronger animal cruelty sentencing

26 JUNE 2017

Did you hear the one about the animal abuser who tortured and killed a dog, only to receive less than six months in prison?

It sounds like a bad joke - and it is. Some of the UK's most beloved comedians are joining forces with Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to tell the world that the six-month maximum sentence for animal cruelty in England and Wales is so bad, it's laughable.

Paul O'Grady, Ricky Gervais, Sue Perkins, Harry Hill and Tracey Ullman are all standing up for the animals as they back Battersea's campaign for the maximum sentence for the most severe animal cruelty offences to be increased to five years. They’re urging their fans to pass on the message and join the 33,978 people who have so far pledged their support and emailed their MP to call for tougher punishments by visiting www.battersea.org.uk/NotFunny.

Battersea’s Ambassador and the face of its award-winning TV show For the Love of Dogs, Paul O’Grady, said: “There's nothing like looking into an animal's eyes to see how innocent and trusting they are, and it makes me angry to see the way some people mistreat and abuse them. I can't stand by and watch while those responsible for the most terrible suffering are unlikely to get more than a few weeks in prison. What's to stop them doing it again?”

Ricky Gervais added: “It’s sickening to hear about innocent dogs and cats enduring terrible suffering at the hands of humans and knowing the law does nothing to protect them, or deter people from committing these acts of cruelty. Six months in prison is nowhere near long enough for people who choose to abuse, torture and kill animals. You could get more for fly-tipping.”

Battersea launched its campaign at Westminster in February, publishing research that revealed England and Wales’ current six-month maximum prison sentence is the lowest sentence for animal cruelty across the whole of Europe, the United States and Australia.

In comparison, the maximum sentence for commercial fly-tipping is five years in prison. In March this year, a Devon fly-tipper was sentenced to 20 months, while just weeks later a Wirral man who admitted stabbing and burning a dog alive was jailed for just 24 weeks.

Battersea’s Chief Executive Claire Horton said: “No one knows how to tell a joke better than comedians like Paul, Ricky, Sue, Tracey and Harry, and we’re so pleased they’re standing up and declaring to the world that animal cruelty sentencing is not funny, and deserves proper sentences that reflect the dreadful crimes they are. Battersea’s campaign has already begun to make its mark and we won’t stop using our voice for animals who have nobody else to speak out for them.

We look forward to working with the new Government to make this happen. Join us and show your support by emailing your MP to call for change.”

Paul, Ricky, Sue, Harry and Tracey are the faces of the campaign and fans will see posters featuring their images on billboards, posters and digital screens at more than 170 locations across the UK and London’s transport network as well as social media.


Notes to Editors


  • Visit www.battersea.org.uk/NotFunny 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 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.