Dog Trust is totally opposed to any form of dog fighting, which is illegal under the Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Scotland Act. Yesterday the House of Commons debated this serious issue, with many MPs stating their concerns.

We believe that two important steps can be taken to help tackle dog fighting: education as a preventative measure and increased sentences and penalties.

Dogs Trust’s UK wide education programme works towards ensuring young people are taught the benefits of responsible dog ownership, helping to enrich the relationship between families and their dogs within their communities, with a view to making sure dogs don’t end up unwanted, abandoned or abused.

Our workshops are based on building empathy and creating an understanding and compassion for dogs. This is a positive preventative approach and enables us to educate children from all society groups and cultures, supporting their educational journey with these intrinsic messages.

Our team also work with young offenders in Secure Training Centres and Her Majesty’s Prisons. Through education hours or activity we offer our ‘Taking the Lead’ course, which encourages young people to not only understand the responsibilities of owning a dog, but also to develop their own interpersonal skills, as well as build on their self-esteem and emotional well-being. This provides a platform for them to develop positive relationships and increase their feelings of empathy and positivity towards sentient beings.

Dogs Trust will continue to develop these preventative measures to ensure more people learn to be respectful of dogs.

Dogs Trust is deeply concerned about woefully inadequate penalties that are available for cruelty cases for a conviction under the Animal Welfare Act. This inadequacy relates to all animal cruelty cases, not just in relation to dog fighting.

Whilst a person who injures or kills an assistance dog can only be given a maximum custodial sentence of six months, the owner of a dog that injures or kills an assistance dog can be given a maximum custodial sentence of three years. This discrepancy highlights the urgent need for a review of animal cruelty sentences under the Animal Welfare Act and the introduction of penalties that reflect the seriousness of the offences that are sadly carried out on a daily basis.

We are calling on the government to review cruelty sentences under the Animal Welfare Act and introduce penalties that reflect the seriousness of the offences.