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Addressing a debate at Westminster Hall on October 15, Adrian Sanders, Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay called for an extension of the maximum jail sentance for animal cruelty offences.
Mr Sanders said that although animal baiting and fighting legislation was first introduced in the UK in 1835, these activities remain “alarmingly prevalent” and greater action is needed to deter those responsible.
He said: “More must be done to deter gangs who are organising these brutal blood sports. An already stretched RSPCA can only do so much to find the gangs carrying out these acts. It only has so many resources to pursue them through the courts.
“This is why we need to send a strong signal to individuals who may be, in any way, involved in the organisation of any sort of animal fighting, wrestling or baiting.”
In order to address this, Mr Sanders recommended that the penalty for “particularly egregious” cases of animal cruelty should be doubled, allowing custodial sentences of up to two years. Currently, the longest sentence stands at 51 weeks.
Extending the maximum jail term would, Mr Sanders believes, “send out a powerful signal to those engaged, or considering becoming engaged, in this brutal competition.”
Judges and magistrates, he noted, “have a great deal of discretion in sentencing,” and of the 1,000 or so convictions under the Animal Welfare Act per year, only 10 per cent were handed prison sentences.
Furthermore, Mr Eustice stated that none of the prison sentences given out have been for the maximum six months.