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Why do we need to call for tougher sentencing?


I am disgusted that we are said to be a nation of animal lovers and have such poor sentencing for cruelty acts – RSPCA Campaigner

Currently, the maximum penalty you can receive for serious acts of animal cruelty is up to six months and an unlimited fine. This is also the case for deliberately killing an animal.

Our frontline staff witness unimaginable acts of cruelty to animals everyday. Last year we investigated 150 thousand complaints of animal cruelty and convicted 744 animal abusers, but we believe laws should be stricter.

Only 7.7 percent of defendants taken to court by us received a prison sentence in 2016, and only 5.5 percent were near the maximum sentence that can be handed down by the courts.

Parliament sets the maximum penalty for offences, which is why we're calling for the maximum sentence to be raised to five years, which will bring us in line with Northern Ireland

Prosecutions in 2016

In our prosecutions from 2016:

  1. 744 defendants were convicted of offences in our cases
  2. Of those, only 58 received an immediate jail term
  3. Just 15 of those were towards the higher penalty

Sentencing Council guidelines recommend that, if a person pleads guilty at the first opportunity, their sentence will be reduced by one-third. This results in many of the most serious cases of animal cruelty only receiving four months in prison, not the full six.

England and Wales have some of the lowest sentences for animal offences in the world.

...there are particular cases of animal cruelty where we may well need to revisit the existing criminal sanctions in order to ensure that the very worst behaviour is dealt with using the full force of the law – Michael Gove, MP, 20 July 2017

How animal cruelty sentencing compares to other crimes

Maximum prison sentence (in years)
Deliberately killing an animal 0.5
Unpaid fees 2
Fly tipping 5
Abstracting electricity 5
Theft 7


We believe the penalty should reflect the crime. If violent acts are being inflicted upon animals, then the sentence should reflect this, as it would if a person was harmed.

What we want changed in the Animal Welfare Act

Unnecessary suffering

Section 4 of the Act refers to unnecessary suffering of an animal.

A person commits an offence if they cause unnecessary suffering, physically or mentally, to an animal. This can be through negligence or intentionally. It applies too, if a person fails to act upon someone else causing the animal to suffer.

Animal fighting

Section 8 of the Act refers to animal fighting.

A person commits an offence if they allow an animal fight to take place, or attempts to do so. It is also an offence to; take part in, organise, publicise, attend or bet on animal fights.

Training animals, possessing animal fighting paraphernalia, with intent to use, and keeping premises for fighting are all offences too.

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