The world’s greatest explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and the Only Way is Essex reality star Chloe Meadows stood side by side outside Parliament today with a dog fighting victim in a show of support for the League Against Cruel Sports’ campaign to increase sentences for dog fighters.

The stars met ahead of the second reading of two Private Members Bills due to be debated today. Alongside League Against Cruel Sports CEO Eduardo Gonçalves, Sir Ranulph and Chloe were TV Vet Marc Abraham, Cupcake the rescued Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Kevin Foster MP (Animal Fighting sentencing) and Anna Turley MP (Animal Cruelty Sentencing) bringing their bills, and Lorraine Platt, Conservatives Against Fox Hunting.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the maximum sentence a convicted animal abuser can face is an ‘embarrassing’ six months custodial sentence. This sentence remains unchanged since the introduction of the Protection of Animals Act in 1911, leaving England and Wales lagging behind most other European countries which have a maximum custodial sentence standing between two and five years.

The League are calling for sentencing to be increased to at least three years behind bars for dog-fighting, and would also like to see a national database of individuals banned from owning animals introduced to prevent further animals failing victim.

The animal welfare charity are also calling for this most horrendous form of animal abuse to be made a specific recordable offence to help tackle the awful crime.

Increasing current sentencing has also gained cross political support and was recommended in the 2016-17 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report into Animal welfare in England: Domestic Pets.

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes in support of the League Against Cruel Sports’ campaign to end dog fighting in the UK and call for tougher sentencing said:

“Dog fighting is one of the most heinous forms of animal cruelty. Treated no differently than disposable commodities, dogs are bred, sold and forced to fight for financial gain or to provide what can only be described as vile entertainment.

“If the current law is to ever serve as a real deterrent to dog fighters or other perpetrators of animal cruelty, the current maximum six month custodial sentence must be increased to at least three years.

“England and Wales has some of the most lenient laws in Europe when it comes to animal cruelty. It is high time the Government listened to the public, parliamentarians and the League Against Cruel Sports and brought sentencing into line with other countries to ensure punishments reflect the severity of the crime and the cruelty inflicted.

“As it stands the most serious cases of animal abuse are prosecuted under other offences in order to secure a more appropriate sentence. This leads to under reporting of these types of crime, which means they will never be given police priority.”

Recently, through the charity’s investigation into dog fighting in the UK, the League were introduced to Staffordshire Bull Terriers Cupcake and Poppet.

Cupcake was found with a terrible eye infection and noticeable facial and neck scarring. She has significant damage to one of her eyes including nerve damage and the complete loss of tear production, a condition known as 'dry eye' which is caused by blunt trauma to the head. Her canine teeth have been left broken to short stubs and parts of her tongue are missing. Vets believe her injuries are consistent with being used for dog fighting and to have been forced to breed litter upon litter of puppies.

Poppet was originally found hiding under a hedge near to a busy main road, after it is thought she had been thrown from a car. She came into her rescuer and now forever home, very thin, hopping on three legs and covered in multiple dog bite scars on her face, neck, head shoulders, legs and rib cage believed to be consistent with dog fighting. Thought to be no older than three years old, upon further veterinary examination was discovered to have had her leg broken two years prior and unbelievably in that condition she had also been repeatedly bred from, resulting in the crumbling of her broken bones.

Under current sentencing, both Cupcake’s and Poppet’s abusers if convicted, would only face a maximum six months in prison.

League Against Cruel Sports CEO, Eduardo Gonçalves said: “Today is an important day for animal welfare. We have seen that there is cross-party support for an increase in sentencing, as well as support from animal welfare groups and from the public. With a maximum sentence of just six months in prison, England and Wales are dead last when it comes to punishing those who abuse animals. The calls from MPs are clear, and the public agree. We now we need the Government to pick this up and get justice for animals. If they do so, they will have our full support”.

The current maximum sentence of six months imprisonment for animal cruelty in England and Wales is quite simply a joke. This leaves us lagging embarrassingly behind almost every other country in Europe. If the law is going to serve any purpose of acting as a deterrent, the time must fit the severity of the crime.

“Cases like Cupcake’s and Poppet’s are unfortunately not isolated. Through our on-going dog fighting investigation we have learnt of other cases where dogs have been forced to fight or bred to fuel this clandestine activity. Many are not as lucky and will have died before being given any hope of a second chance at a happy life.”

Marc Abraham, Vet and Founder of PupAid said: "During my veterinary career and as the founder of PupAid's campaign against puppy farming, I have unfortunately witnessed first hand some of the most horrendous cases of animal cruelty and neglect. It's clear that the current maximum sentence of six months behind bars is serving no real deterrent and this urgently needs to change. Animal cruelty must be taken much more seriously and those inflicting cruelty and suffering, whether it's forcing dogs to fight or leaving an animal to starve to death, must fully serve the appropriate level of justice and punishment.”

Chloe Meadows commented: “I don’t understand how anyone can abuse animals and why so little is being done to stop it. Animals need our voice which is why I’m supporting the League Against Cruel Sports and their campaign to strengthen the law.”

Anna Turley MP said: "The current sentences available to courts to punish animal abuse are not working. They often mean the perpetrators of cruel acts towards animals just receive a slap on the wrist. If we do not properly punish these people then as a society we are essentially legitimising abuse against animals. There are some quite horrific acts of violence and cruelty to animals taking place around the country and the perpetrators clearly have no fear or the law.

"The evidence also points to a cycle of violence where it progresses from animals to being against other humans. Tougher punishment would help stop this cycle before it reaches that stage. By the standards of other countries and even nations within the UK, we are falling short and my bill will address that."

Kevin Foster MP said: “Despite being illegal for over a century too many animals are still suffering from the torture and death that comes with dog fighting. Increasing our embarrassingly low sentences is not just about punishing the sadists who take a perverted form of enjoyment from such horror but also deterring those gangs who, due to the embarrassingly low sentences for it, see it as a lower risk way of making an immoral profit.

The League’s petition calling for the Government to strengthen of animal cruelty sentencing stands at over 85,000 signatures and can be signed here.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • The full case studies of Staffordshire Bull Terriers Cupcake and Poppet are available on request including images.
  • Please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email press@league.org.uk for any image, comment or interview requests
  • The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).