THE LAWS around animal cruelty are grossly outdated and mean offenders are not being properly punished. However the Government refuse to listen to people’s concerns, leaving animals at risk of cruelty.
I wrote to the Government this month on behalf of constituents, raising our concerns about the inadequate sentencing measures for those charged with animal cruelty. I was not satisfied with the response, and I doubt concerned constituents will be too!
The Government claim to take the issue of animal welfare seriously. Yet the Minister responsible seems satisfied that the maximum sentence of 6 months is adequate enough. Many don’t even receive the maximum sentence! In fact the average sentence for animal cruelty is only 3.4 months.
The excuse the Government gave is that sentencing can be accompanied by a fine and a ban on the ownership of an animal – but only if the court is satisfied that this would put the animal at risk. In current sentencing laws for animal cruelty – which by the way, were passed in 1911– magistrates can be flexible with how long offenders are imprisoned for. It’s right that sentencing should be flexible, to differences in the seriousness of the crime. But the threshold of 6 months is too low, which means many are not receiving proper punishment for their crimes.
The Minister did say that the Government is reviewing the maximum penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty, but he stopped short of increasing the length of imprisonment for the worst offenders.
It would be wrong to trust the Tories on this issue. They have pledged to bring back fox hunting, which Labour banned in 2004. Our progressive work on this would be undone in a second if we let the Tories loose on this issue. When it comes to animal welfare, they either don’t get it, don’t care, or worse they think that animal rights come second to the cruel sports enjoyed by a fraction of the population.
The Labour party on the other hand are clear on this issue. The sentencing laws for animal cruelty are too low, and being set in 1911 are not fit for the nature of animal ownership today. Which is why a Labour government would increase sentencing beyond 6 months for people guilty of animal cruelty. But we won’t wait until then. I and my Labour colleagues will keep raising this issue in Parliament until we get the right response from the Government.