Calls for longer prison sentences for animal abusers

Joining them, and representatives from nine other leading animal welfare organisations on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street, was Jet – a Lakeland Terrier shot in the head four times and left for dead by the ex-boyfriend of his previous owner.

They were there today (Monday 24 June) to meet the prime minister’s environment adviser, Lord Randall, to call for the Government to act.

Andy Knott with the RSPCA at 10 Downing Street calling on tougher animal cruelty sentences.

Andrew Knott, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“The maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty is six months, which is far too low. To build the kinder society we all wish to see, we must introduce proper deterrents to those intent on abusing animals – tougher custodial sentences of up to five years will better reflect the gravity of their crimes.

“At a time when animal welfare is higher than ever on the public and political agenda, it is vital that this opportunity is not lost. We urge the Government to legislate for this change at the earliest opportunity.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove first announced the Government’s intention to increase maximum prison sentences from six months to five years in September 2017. Following a national campaign by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, he visited the charity in south London in December 2017 to announce plans for a new draft bill on the issue.

Despite repeated promises and assurances by the Government to amend the Animal Welfare Act, and the policy being announced at two consecutive Conservative Party conferences, the change has yet to be made.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said:

“It’s been more than 18 months since the Government pledged to increase penalties for the most serious cases of animal cruelty – and we’re still waiting for them to fulfil their promise.

“During that time, animals have been shot, stabbed, set on fire, drowned, beaten and left to starve to death. A maximum sentence of six months in prison for beating a dog to death with a shovel or throwing a cat off the roof of a building simply isn’t enough*. The courts need to have longer sentences at their disposal for the worst animal abusers - and they need these powers as soon as possible.”

The 11 organisations at the meeting in 10 Downing Street were represented by:

  • Claire Horton, chief executive, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
  • Steve Goody, deputy CEO & COO, Blue Cross
  • James Yeates, chief executive, Cats Protection
  • Dr Nick Palmer, head of UK, Compassion in World Farming
  • Paula Boyden, veterinary and campaigns director, Dogs Trust
  • Claire Bass, executive director, Humane Society International UK
  • David Cowdrey, head of policy and campaigns, International Fund for Animal Welfare
  • Andrew Knott, chief executive, League Against Cruel Sports
  • Chris Sherwood, chief executive, RSPCA
  • Paula Sparks, chair, UK Centre for Animal Law
  • Roly Owers, chief executive, World Horse Welfare

Joining them at Downing Street was two-year-old Jet and RSPCA Inspector Graham Hammond. Jet was found dumped in scrubland in Southampton, Hampshire, last July with horrendous injuries.

He’d been shot in the head four times with an air rifle and spent five days collapsed and alone before being found and rushed to a vet. His wounds were covered in thousands of fly eggs (known as fly-strike) and he needed £5,000 worth of treatment to nurse him back to health.

Miraculously, Jet survived but his hearing and vision were both affected. The RSPCA launched an investigation and traced the man responsible for the brutal injuries. Earlier this month, the 37-year-old was found guilty at trial of causing unnecessary suffering to Jet (an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006) and sentenced to 200 hours of community service, ordered to pay more than £1,600 in costs and disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years. 


Notes to Editors

*Magistrates and judges can currently impose a maximum sentence of six months in prison, but welfare charities believe they should have the flexibility to impose tougher sentences for those cases that demonstrate the worst animal abuse, such as Bibi. The four-month-old Staffordshire bull terrier was kicked her to death in Fulham, London, by her owner. Police and the RSPCA were called to the property and found poor Bibi’s body wrapped in blankets and left in a wicker basket. Her owner claimed that a bed had collapsed on top of her, killing her. The RSPCA launched an investigation and a postmortem examination revealed that there were also three historical injuries of blunt force trauma to her body across a number of months before the final incident which led to her death. The blow was inflicted with so much force that poor Bibi would have experienced extreme pain and suffering before her death. Her owner was sentenced to an immediate 26-week custodial sentence for a total of four charges under the Animal Welfare Act. He was also banned from keeping all animals for life and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs. [Photos of Bibi - please note they are distressing]


To download before and after pictures of Jet, please click here.

For further case studies please contact the RSPCA press office on or calling 0300 123 0244. 

The RSPCA is the oldest and largest animal welfare charity, and investigates more than 140,000 complaints of animal cruelty every year, while taking in more than 110,000 animals in need. The charity is also the principle prosecutor under the Animal Welfare Act.

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