Unfinished Sentence for Dog Fighters

Early in 2015, the League publicised the case of Cupcake, a Staffordshire bull terrier who had been rescued from dog fighting. Cupcake had suffered some appalling injuries, with her teeth worn down, scars across her body, and her eye sight severely damaged. These injuries – and much worse – are not unusual when it comes to the world of dog fighting.

Despite the best efforts of the League and so many other animal welfare organisations, animal cruelty still goes on. And when it does, it is only right that the perpetrators be brought to justice. Sometimes this can mean community service, other times a fine, but there are occasions when the abuse is so severe only a prison sentence is appropriate.

This is why one of our key aims is tougher sentences for animal cruelty offences. The current maximum sentence is six months imprisonment. This amounts to little more than a light slap on the wrist for some appalling abuse, especially when compared to many other countries, where the maximum sentence generally lies somewhere between two and five years.

The need for tougher sentences is why we are pleased to see the Sentencing Council publish revised guidelines for animal cruelty offences. The Sentencing Council have said that “the guideline aims to ensure that the most serious cases lead to prison sentences and that these sentences are of an appropriate length”. The changes mean that additional aggravating factors of “use of technology to publicise or promote cruelty” and ‘“animal being used in public service or as an assistance dog” are being included, the latter meaning that police dogs or horses are specifically highlighted.

We welcome these changes, but as the Sentencing Council acknowledge, many of those who responded to their consultation raised concerns that the current maximum sentence is not enough. It was not within the Council’s remit to increase the maximum sentence – this can only be done through Parliament.

Luckily, Parliament will have the chance to do just that very soon. On February 24th, MPs Kevin Foster and Anna Turley are bringing forward two pieces of legislation aiming to strengthen sentencing. We will be asking our supporters to get involved, making sure their local MP attends the debate and supports the legislation. We appreciate the Sentencing Council’s work, and it is an important step, but we need to go much further if we’re to get justice for animals.

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