Several animal welfare groups are campaigning for the sentencing of animal cruelty to be strengthened. Battersea Dogs & Cats Home published a report into animal cruelty which said there was an "urgent need for tougher maximum sentences". The charity is encouraging supporters to contact their MP to ask them to support an increase in the maximum sentence for animal cruelty, from 6 months imprisonment to five years. The average prison term for someone convicted of animal cruelty in England and Wales is 3.3 months, the average fine is £244. Battersea's 2017 report notes that "six months in prison for the gravest act of animal cruelty, such as torturing an animal to death, is less than the maximum sentence for fly tipping (5 years) and theft (7 years)".
I believe that the humane treatment of all animals should be a benchmark for any civilised society and it is important that we send out a strong and powerful message that animal cruelty must stop. At the recent General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to increase the maximum sentence available for those convicted of committing animal cruelty.
I also support the League Against Cruel Sports’ dog-fighting action plan which, amongst other things, proposes a national register of individuals banned from keeping dogs to be held by statutory agencies.
The Sentencing Council has recently reviewed the Magistrate’s Court sentencing guidelines, including those relating to animal cruelty. During the last Parliament, the Government stated that the revised guidance, effective from May 2017, will allow magistrates more flexibility when imposing penalties towards the upper end of the scale for animal cruelty.
However, I remain concerned that the punishment for animal cruelty does not reflect the gravity of the crime. I believe that the Government should ensure that the most serious cases of animal abuse are heard at the Crown Court.