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Tougher sentences for animal cruelty

The Pet Care Trust, the national charity that promotes responsible pet ownership, has urged stiffer penalties for the severest cases of animal cruelty than those proposed in the new Animal Welfare Bill.

As it stands, the Bill sets out a maximum prison sentence of 51 weeks and/or a fine of up to £20,000. However, convicted offenders are likely to serve no more than 25 weeks of even the longest sentence.

“These penalties do not seem right for serious and deliberate acts causing pain and suffering to animals. We want to ensure stiffer sentences are introduced for the worst crimes against animals to deter and punish those responsible,” Janet Nunn, Chief Executive of the Trust, commented. “What signal does it send when breaching an ASBO is indictable, but killing an animal is not?”
The Bill also states that offences have to be brought to court within three years. This would mean that serious cases of animal cruelty could slip through the net and prosecutors never punished. By making the worst cases indictable, the time limit would be removed for their prosecution.

“Once that anomaly is addressed, the general duty of care breaches, such as neglect, can be better addressed within 12 months as opposed to the three years suggested by the Bill. This would reduce the burden of record keeping on pet owners and businesses,” Janet Nunn added.
The Bill had its report and third reading stages in the House of Commons on Tuesday 14 March 2006. It will now be introduced in the House of Lords.

To view the Pet Care Trust’s detailed response to the Animal Welfare Bill, visit the policy section on the web at www.petcare.org.uk For further information and to download a copy of the Animal Welfare Bill, visit http://www.defra.gov.uk /animalh/welfare/bill/