• Animal cruelty sentencing

    Groups such as the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and Battersea Dogs and Cats’ Home have expressed concern about the sentences for animal cruelty, which do not always appear to match the abuse suffered by the animals, especially in the case of extreme cruelty such as dog fighting. I agree that any sentences given by the courts must reflect the seriousness of these crimes. The level of cruelty to animals is worrying and it is important that we send out a strong and powerful message that animal cruelty must stop.

    At the 2015 General Election I stood on a manifesto which included a commitment to improve protection for cats and dogs. And I continue to support the LACS’ dog-fighting action plan which, amongst other things, proposes a national register of individuals banned from keeping dogs to be held by statutory agencies.

    Unfortunately, the Government is yet to make any significant changes to ensure that the punishment for animal cruelty reflects the gravity of the crime. The Government recently said that it has no plans to introduce an animal abusers register. I believe the Government should consider increasing magistrates’ sentencing powers, and ensuring that the most serious cases of animal abuse are heard at the Crown Court.

    As I am sure you are aware, there are two Private Members’ Bills currently before Parliament, which aim to increase the maximum sentences available for the offences of animal fighting and animal cruelty. The Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill and the Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill are both scheduled to have their second reading debate on Friday 24 February 2017. However, they are currently the fifth and sixth Bills on the order paper for the day and so it is therefore unlikely that these Bills will be debated or progress any further.

    Nevertheless, I will monitor any developments and I can assure you that I will continue to press for clear and enforceable penalties against anyone who commits animal cruelty offences.