Dogs Trust comment: Sentencing in animal cruelty cases
Dogs Trust feels strongly that the current penalties available for cruelty cases for conviction under the Animal Welfare Act are woefully inadequate. We will continue to urge the Government to take action to protect all animals by making changes that will allow the most serious cases of cruelty to be heard in the Crown Court and receive a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.
Currently, a person who injures or kills a dog can only be given a maximum custodial sentence of six months under the Animal Welfare Act. In comparison, recent changes to the Dangerous Dogs legislation mean that the owner of a dog that injures or kills an assistance dog can, quite rightly, be given a maximum custodial sentence of three years. This discrepancy in the penalties available highlights the urgent need for Government to review animal cruelty sentences and introduce punishments that reflect the seriousness of these offences that are sadly carried out on a daily basis.
Last year Dogs Trust responded to the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines consultation which included a new draft guideline for animal cruelty offences. This updated guideline will shortly replace the current version which has been in use since 2008. While we agree the proposed changes are important to help ensure realistic sentences are passed, we strongly believe more needs to be done to ensure that animal cruelty convictions are a significant deterrent.