We welcome the draft animal welfare bill

12.12.17

Man caught on camera abusing horse

Our exclusive figures reveal how many animal abusers don’t go to prison.

We welcome the news that the Government is publishing a new animal welfare bill to increase sentences for animal cruelty and also recognise animal sentience in domestic law.

Our latest figures reveal just 6.5 percent of people we prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act this year received an immediate prison sentence.

Our inspectors face shocking cases of animal abuse and neglect

Michael Ward, our interim chief executive, said:

It’s great news that the Government has committed to bringing in tougher sentences in England and Wales.

Sadly, every year, our inspectors are faced with sickening cases of animal abuse, cruelty and neglect.

And while, in as many cases as possible, we seek to deal with complaints of animal cruelty using preventative measures such as education and advice, sometimes we feel it's necessary to bring animal abusers before the courts for punishment.

This year our officers have seen shocking cases of horses being hit repeatedly with wood, pets being beaten to death by their owners, and dogs being kept in cold, concrete pens coated in their own filth.

As the cruelty continues to shock us, so too do the sentences handed out to such cold-hearted and cruel individuals. Of the 40 people who received immediate jail terms in RSPCA prosecutions this year so far, just 14 were given sentences towards the upper limit of six months.

Only a small percentage receive immediate jail sentences

Left in a concrete pen and coated in filth

In 2017 so far (up to 8 December), just 40 people have received immediate jail sentences – that’s only 6.5 percent of the 620 people convicted – having been convicted of an offence under the Animal Welfare Act.

We take on more than 80 percent of all prosecutions under the Animal Welfare Act. Just 2.3 percent of those convicted faced a jail term that’s as long as six-months, which is the current maximum jail sentence under the Animal Welfare Act. Despite the fact that we’ve seen a number of extremely violent cases of deliberate cruelty and distressing incidents of neglect.

For some time, we’ve been calling for the maximum sentence to be increased to five years – bringing England and Wales into line with Northern Ireland and other European countries.

Good news for animals post-Brexit

The new draft bill also sets out that the Government recognises that animals are sentient beings that have the capacity to feel joy and pleasure, as well as pain and suffering, and that the Government will take this into account when formulating new policy.

Our head of public affairs, David Bowles, said:

This is potentially great news for animals post-Brexit.

To include the recognition of animal sentience as well as increasing animal cruelty sentencing to five years into the new 2018 Animal Welfare Bill is a very bold and welcome move by the Government.

Even better, the legislation explicitly rejects the kind of exemptions for activities that the European Union deemed acceptable – such as bull-fighting and producing foie gras – which will offer even stronger protection than Article 13 of the EU Treaty could ever do.

We warmly welcome measures to evaluate government policy against animal sentience and we await further detail.

Halo was beaten to death

One heart-breaking example of the low sentences that animal cruelty offenders can receive under the current Animal Welfare Bill, is that of a Merseyside man who pleaded guilty for beating his daughter’s dog to death – and was jailed for only 23 weeks.

The court heard that the body of the Staffordshire bull terrier, named Halo, was found lying on top of a children’s paddling pool and various rubbish, in an alleyway on 2 February this year.

Halo, who at the time the man was looking after for his daughter, had blood around her nose but did not appear to have any obvious injuries. A post mortem showed that Halo had suffered severe damage to her liver as a result of multiple blunt forces consistent with being kicked.

Our inspector, Anthony Joynes said:

This was a stomach-churning case of brutal violence against a young, defenceless Staffie. It still troubles me greatly knowing how terrified poor Halo would have been. She was being hurt by the person who she relied upon to protect her.

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