Dogs Trust continues to be shocked by acts of cruelty that are inflicted on dogs across the UK. However, we strongly feel that the woefully inadequate penalties available for cruelty cases for conviction under the Animal Welfare Act only serve to protect those capable of such horrific crimes.

A person who injures or kills a dog can only be given a maximum custodial sentence of six months under the Animal Welfare Act. In comparison, changes to Dangerous Dog legislation earlier this year mean that the owner of a dog that injures or kills an assistance dog can be given a maximum custodial sentence of three years. This discrepancy in penalties highlights the urgent need for Defra to review animal cruelty sentences and introduce punishments that reflect the seriousness of these offences that are sadly carried out on a daily basis.

Dogs Trust is currently responding to the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines consultation which includes a new draft guideline for animal cruelty offences. Once approved, this guideline will update the current one which has been in use since 2008. Whilst we agree the proposed changes to sentencing guidelines are important to help ensure realistic sentences are passed, more needs to be done to ensure that cruelty convictions are a deterrent. Therefore, we continue to urge Defra to take actions to protect all animals.