Animal abusers who commit the most heinous crimes could face up to five years in prison under new plans set to be unveiled by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Currently the maximum sentence is six months but the government will announce plans to bring forward new legislation that will increase that tenfold, sending a clear signal to any potential offenders that there is no place for animal cruelty in England.
There have been a number of recent shocking cases where courts have said they would have handed down longer sentences had they been available, including a case in April last year when a man bought a number of puppies just to brutally and systematically beat, choke and stab them to death.
The new legislation will also enable courts to deal more effectively with ruthless gangs involved in organised dog fights.
Cases of extreme cruelty are rare – while on average about 1,150 people per year are convicted for animal cruelty, fewer than five of them receive the current maximum sentence. The change in law will ensure that offenders are properly punished in those rare but shocking cases.
Under the government’s plans, courts will retain the ability to hand out an unlimited fine and ban an offender from owning animals in the future, but crucially they will also have the ability to sentence the worst cases appropriately. The move will bring maximum sentences for animal cruelty in England into line with other countries such as Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
RSPCA Head of Public Affairs David Bowles said:
“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. 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 RSPCA 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 that we take that many of the perpetrators are brought to justice.”