Thank you to everyone who has contacted me both before and after the general election to raise their concerns about sentencing for animal cruelty. I am aware that several organisations, including the League Against Cruel Sports and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, have expressed concern that sentences they 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. It is important that we send out a strong and powerful message that animal cruelty must stop.
The Government is yet to make any significant changes in this area and recently stated that it has no plans to introduce an animal abusers register. I believe that ministers should consider increasing magistrates’ sentencing powers and ensuring that the most serious cases of animal abuse are heard at the Crown Court. Any review should consider the prevalence of these offences and whether the current sentencing guidance is being applied properly.
As many of you will know, two Private Members’ Bills were introduced during the last Parliament with the aim of increasing the maximum sentences available for the offences of animal fighting and animal cruelty. The Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill and the Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill were scheduled to have their Second Reading debates on Friday 24th February 2017, but this was objected to in both cases. The bills were relisted for 24th March but they were very low on the order paper and unfortunately therefore had no chance of being debated.
I would like to reassure my constituents that my Labour Party colleagues and I support efforts to increase sentences for those convicted of animal abuse and will continue to press for clear and enforceable penalties against anyone who commits animal cruelty offences.