League disappointed at government refusal to toughen animal abuse sentences

The League Against Cruel Sports has today welcomed the Government’s acknowledgement that private prosecutions are ‘a powerful tool to promote animal welfare’. The charity were however deeply disappointed to learn that the Government  has failed  to act upon calls from itself, other animal welfare charities and the public to increase sentencing and create a national register of individuals banned from keeping animals.

League Against Cruel Sports CEO, Eduardo Gonçalves commenting on the Government’s response to the report, said:

“Charities like the RSPCA and ourselves have taken private prosecutions because frankly it’s often the only way that those committing animal abuse or wildlife crimes will ever be brought to justice. Those calling for an end to private prosecutions are often those who have an interest, such as those involved in hunting – without private prosecutions, illegal hunting is pretty much free to carry on untouched because the police and CPS don’t have the resources to do anything about it.

“We’re therefore pleased that the government has come to the conclusion that private prosecutions are a powerful tool in promoting animal welfare. The League will continue to provide evidence of illegal activity to the police and we reserve the right to bring private prosecutions where needed.”

However, the charity expressed its disappointment at the government’s response in terms of current sentencing guidelines for those found guilty of animal abuse.

Eduardo Gonçalves added: “If we don’t offer a serious punishment to animal abusers then they will continue abusing animals. I spend a lot of my time looking at horrific dog fighting footage as the League is working hard to stamp this out in the UK, but I know in the back of my mind that if we catch a dog fighter, the most they will get is six months in prison – and probably much less. That’s utterly inadequate and would be laughable if it wasn’t so shocking.

“The League is calling for a minimum of three years for the most serious crimes against animals. In Northern Ireland, the penalty is five years – this came after the public were outraged after a gang of dog fighters who had inflicted some of the worst cruelty I’ve ever seen on animals got away with a virtual slap on the wrist. Do we have to wait for a case like that to happen in the rest of the UK before we do something about it?”

The League Against Cruel Sports is running a petition to increase sentences for dog fighting, which currently has 80,000 signatures. A petition for Finn’s Law, calling on police animals to receive the same protection as their human colleagues, quickly reached 120,000 signatures last year.

The League is also calling for a national register of those people banned from keeping animals because of abuse.

“I’ve seen too many reports where someone has been banned from keeping animals – then were able to acquire more animals which they then abused,” said Mr Goncalves. “At the moment no-one knows who these people are because there’s no central record. We’re not aiming for a name-and-shame policy, but there should be a central register of those who are banned which is available to those rehoming or breeding animals to help them prevent those animals ending up in the hands of someone who may harm them. We need a solution to this otherwise we are offering these people the freedom to continue abusing animals.”

Two MPs are calling for tougher sentencing for animal cruelty with separate bills going before Parliament on February 24th.

Members of the public are welcome to sign the League Against Cruel Sports’ petition for increased sentences for those involved in dog fighting.


  1. For further information, comment or interview requests, please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524250 or email press@league.org.uk

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).

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