The law on killing wild animals in the UK is similar and perhaps sometimes the same (depending on the circumstances) as killing domestic animals such as domestic cats. I wrote about the law on cat killing in the UK some time ago and in that article I referred to a criminal case in which a man was convicted of killing a domestic cat by drowning, which had wandered onto his land. He got 4 months in prison and was banned from keeping animals for 25 years. In the UK domestic cats are protected by law and it is an offence to trap, injure or kill them.
Today two brothers (aged 31 and 23) were convicted of causing unnecessary suffering in killing a hedgehog by kicking it like a football. They were jailed for six weeks and ordered to pay £250 compensation. The prison sentence is very similar in duration to the one concerning the domestic cat killing by drowning.
Both the law (Animal Welfare Act 2006 – “the Act”) and the application of it covers wild and domestic animals equally. In fact in makes no distinction and quite rightly so.
“Wild animals have protection as well as domestic ones…We are here to protect both.” (RSPCA inspector Helen Nedley)
No doubt the conviction of the domestic cat killer turned on the same clause of the Act, the one concerning causing uneccessary suffering.
The judge, Kristina Harrison, described the killing of the hedgehog as:
“…a horrible case where you have tortured an animal who has hurt absolutely nobody and whose numbers in the wild are rapidly dwindling. If people feel horrified by he case, quite frankly they are absolutely right to do so.”
Feral cats are essentially wild animals although there is a wide spectrum of “wildness” amongst the feral cat population. Anyone killing a feral cat in the UK would, if convicted under similar circumstances, be punished in the same way.
The defendants’ barrister did all he could to keep the brothers out if jail. But he failed. This judge was committed to make an example of these thugs. It is important to do this. And it is good to see animal protected and respected like this.
There are circumtances when it is necessary to take into account certain circumstances under which an an animal is killed. For instance to protect a person or another animal or whether the suffering was proportionate to the purpose of the conduct concerned. But these “exceptions” would apply to a domestic or feral cat exceptionally rarely, I would submit.