New, tougher sentences for animal cruelty are good news for animals like police dogs

Sentences for animal cruelty increase

Along with animal lovers all over the country, we were delighted this week by the Government’s announcement that the maximum prison sentence for cruelty to animals will increase to five years – currently, it’s just six months.

This tougher deterrent is long overdue, and could play a crucial role in preventing animal abuse.

We’ve joined many other animal-protection groups in calling for this change. Earlier this year, for example, we were involved in pushing for tougher punishment for anyone who harms a police animal, following a horrific attack on police dog, Finn. At the time of the attack, absurdly, an attack on a police animal was only classed as damaging property, akin to a smashed windscreen, rather than an assault on an intelligent, sentient and highly trained team member.

Thanks to more than 14,000 of our caring supporters who contacted their MPs about the need for stronger sentences, as well as the determination of PD Finn’s handler, Dave Wardell, we've already seen progress. Back in February, the sentencing council announced that, going forwards, attacks on police animals would be treated as aggravated offences, essentially ‘upgrading’ these courageous animals’ status from mere property. But we remained concerned that the maximum sentence for such attacks was still just 6 months – not nearly enough.

Since then, we’ve been talking to MPs and keeping up the pressure for change, so we’re very pleased to hear the Environment Minister Michael Gove promising action this week.  Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference yesterday, he said:

“And on animal welfare we will take the tough action necessary to deal with those whose callousness or greed inflicts pain and suffering on innocent creatures. At the moment the maximum sentence for animal cruelty is just six months.

I believe that when we face deliberate, calculating and sadistic behaviour, we need to deploy the full force of the law to show we will not tolerate evil. Which is why we will bring forward legislation to increase punishments for the most horrific acts of animal cruelty to five year sentences.

Animals are sentient beings, they are in our care, they deserve our protection.”

We’re looking forward to seeing this new legislation become a reality, and offer greater protection to police dogs and all the other animals who can face violence and cruelty. Thank you and well done to everyone who’s spoken out and worked hard to make this happen – we’ll keep you posted on what’s happening next and how you can get involved again.

--RH

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