As an animal advocate I have always believed that animal abusers are insufficiently punished when convicted of a crime. It isn’t just that the standard prison sentences are too short, it is also that many animal abusers are not sent to prison at all, or perhaps they are fined or simply not prosecuted at all.
I think it is time to propose that in the West – and in this instance I’m referring mainly to the UK and perhaps the USA – the maximum jail sentence for animal abuse and cruelty should be increased to 5 years. It may be the case that in some states in the USA five years is indeed the maximum sentence for a felony of animal abuse and cruelty but I think that you will find that the maximum is more likely to be three years.
In the UK, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the maximum jail term is 51 weeks and/or fine. This apparently is the shortest in Europe, although I’m yet to verify that. I understand that the maximum jail sentence in Northern Ireland for animal cruelty is five years.
I am pleased to see that Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is launching a campaign for longer jail terms for animal abusers. They say that it is time for the punishment to fit the crime.
There have been some recent cases of animal abuse which have caused an outcry. For instance, Robert Koch was jailed for six months after he confessed to choking, beating and stabbing nine puppies at his home in London.
A young man whose name is Kieran Milledge abused his Staffordshire bull terrier. He swung his dog against a train and pushed his foot into his dog’s face. He was jailed for 21 weeks for that crime.
When there is extreme animal cruelty, it is unacceptable that courts are unable to hand down tough sentences. The charity is calling for the maximum sentence to be increased under these circumstances to 5 years.
Research by Battersea indicates that 933 people living in England and Wales in 2015 were convicted of animal cruelty. Of this number 91 were sent to prison. The average sentence was less than four months and 202 were given suspended jail terms.
There is still too much animal cruelty. Longer jail terms would act as a deterrent. Unfortunately many people believe that jail is not a good form of punishment and in addition jails are already overcrowded in the UK which encourages the government, who can stipulate or provide guidelines for sentencing, to keep jail terms short.
The fact of the matter is that some acts of animal cruelty are extreme and only extreme sentencing can be appropriate.