Leading welfare charity Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is calling for punishments for animal cruelty crimes to be taken more seriously, as the Government once again ignored demands for appropriate sentences in its response to a Westminster Committee report on animal welfare released today.
Battersea, which sees many cruelty and neglect cases each year, is disappointed to note the Government, in its response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee’s wide-ranging report on animal welfare, has declined to take forward calls to increase the current maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to five years. This measure had been welcomed by key organisations in the Committee’s report, which was published on 6 November 2016.
Currently, the maximum sentence in England and Wales is six months in prison, a ban from ownership and a fine in England and Wales – the lowest such sentence in Europe. England and Wales lag far behind most other countries, including Northern Ireland at five years and Scotland at one year.
Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton, said: “We welcome clarity on Government thinking on animal welfare but it’s disappointing they have failed to take up so many of EFRA’s recommendations. We’re particularly disappointed in their view on animal cruelty sentencing.
“The current sentence for such offences is inadequate, both as a punishment and a deterrent for those who mistreat and neglect animals to the point of unacceptable suffering. This is an issue that Battersea, along with other key animal welfare organisations, has regularly brought to the Government’s attention and we will continue to speak out on the need for sentences which properly fit the crime.
“Animal abusers need to be brought to justice, so we welcome the Government agreeing that the RSPCA should continue investigating and prosecuting such dreadful crimes.”
On another aspect of the Government’s response to EFRA, Battersea confirms it has long campaigned against the sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops. The Home welcomes the Government’s measures to tackle widespread welfare problems across the puppy trade, such as fully banning the sale of any puppies under eight weeks of age and requiring anybody who sells animals to show their valid licence details.
Claire Horton added: “Whilst Battersea supports the principle behind a ban on third-party sales of puppies, recognising it could help to end the misery brought by the puppy farming industry, it is yet unclear how such a ban could work in practice at this time. Battersea understands the Government’s position that regulation can achieve higher standards but feels more could be done to improve welfare of breeding dogs and their offspring now, if a ban were to be seen as the eventual goal.”
The charity looks forward in the coming months to working with both the Government and the EFRA Committee to improve the quality of the breeding and sale of puppies and kittens.