Animal cruelty sentences to be extended

Those who have been found guilty of animal abuse, including pain inflicted on livestock, could face sentences of up to five years. 

At present, the maximum sentencing is only six months. However, the government is planning on bringing forward new legislation that will see that increased 10-fold. The laws would extend to cover all animals under the control of humans.

“We are a nation of animal-lovers, so we must ensure that those who commit the most shocking cruelty towards animals face suitably tough punishments,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

“These plans will give courts the tools they have requested to deal with the most abhorrent acts. This is one part of our plan to deliver world-leading standards of animal welfare in the years ahead.”

Just last month, it was announced that CCTV cameras would be made mandatory in all slaughterhouses.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that while there was an average of 1,150 people convicted a year of animal cruelty, fewer than five received the current maximum sentencing. The new legislation will ensure those guilty of the most heinous crimes will face maximum jail-time.

Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland already sentence people to a maximum of five years for breaches. Under the new plans, courts will have the power to hand out an unlimited fine and ban an offender from owning animals in the future.

Deterring abuse

“We are thrilled that the government has responded to calls from the RSPCA and members of the public to toughen up sentences for the worst animal abusers,” commented head of public affairs for the RSCPA David Bowless. “We now feel that those who commit these acts will soon be receiving sentences that reflect the seriousness of their crime and hope this will act as a real deterrent against cruelty and neglect.

“The RSCPA picks up the pieces of animal cruelty every day of the year. Our inspectors regularly rescue animals from horrific circumstances of mistreatment, brutality and neglect. It is only through the prosecutions we take that many of the perpetrators are brought to justice.

“The strength of feeling behind a move to toughen up these sentences is huge – but at the moment the courts are limited by the law under which the strongest sentence for animal cruelty is six months’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine – but this rarely happens,” added Bowles.

“Michael Gove’s promise to bring sentences in line with Northern Ireland – which has a maximum of five years’ imprisonment – should help to deter people from abusing and neglecting animals and will finally mean that the sentence fits the crime.”

A draft legislation for consultation will be published around the turn of the new year. It comes as part of the government’s scheme to cement the UK as a leader in animal welfare upon leaving the European Union.

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