Target: 75,000




of our target


political supporters

What we want to change

What's happened so far?

The UK and Scottish Governments have both agreed to introduce five year maximum sentences – but the law hasn’t yet been changed. The current animal cruelty sentence is neither a punishment nor a deterrent, so we need you to join us and support the campaign.

In England and Wales, the maximum
sentence for animal cruelty is just
six months
and in Scotland it is just one year

The penalties for animal cruelty

In England and Wales the Animal Welfare Act 2006 sets out how people should look after animals. It places a duty of care on pet owners to provide for their animals’ basic needs, spells out the animal cruelty offences and sets out the penalties for breaching the law.

In Scotland, the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 also sets out how people should take care of and act towards the animals in their care, places a duty of care on pet owners to provide for their animals’ basic needs, defines the animal cruelty offences and sets out the penalties.

The maximum penalty available for animal cruelty in England and Wales is 6 months in jail for these offences, and/or an unlimited fine and/or a ban on keeping animals. In September 2017, the Government announced that it would increase the maximum penalty to five years in England – however, this has yet to happen and it is still six months.

In Scotland the maximum penalty is 12 months in prison for causing unnecessary suffering (section 19) or being involved in animal fighting (section 23), and/or a fine of up to £20,000 and/or a ban on keeping animals. In September 2017, the Scottish Government announced its plan to increase the maximum penalty to five years – but again, no Bill has been passed and 12 months remains the maximum penalty.

Download our England and Wales report

Download our Scotland report

Find out more

England, Wales and Scotland have some of
the lowest
maximum sentences for animal
cruelty in Europe and the USA

How do England, Wales and Scotland compare with the rest of the world?

The chart below shows the maximum custodial penalties provided for in law for animal cruelty in 100 jurisdictions around the world. These include:

  • 36 European nations, including England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • 50 States of the USA plus the District of Columbia
  • 6 Australian States plus 2 Territories
  • 5 other OECD countries (Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and Turkey).

The penalties shown are for the most serious cases of animal cruelty, such as intentionally torturing an animal, causing it serious injury or death.

Maximum custodial sentences available for animal cruelty in 100 jurisdictions around the world

Maximum sentence pie chart

Of the 100 jurisdictions studied:

  • over half (54%) can impose a prison sentence of 3 years or more
  • a third (34%) can impose a sentence of 5 years or more in prison
  • 8% allow for prison sentences of more than 5 years.

England, Wales and Scotland’s position in this global picture is even more starkly presented in chart below which shows the maximum penalties in individual countries in Europe and the USA.

Maximum custodial penalties for animal cruelty in Europe

England and Wales is amongst the most lenient of the 100 jurisdictions, having the lowest maximum custodial penalty for the most serious cases. Scotland is slightly stronger at one year, but still does not compare favourably with most other places.

Download our England and Wales report

Download our Scotland report

Find out more

The maximum sentence for
fly tipping
is longer than the maximum
sentence for animal cruelty

Are the sentences for animal cruelty proportionate?

Proportionality in sentencing is a key principle of justice – the sentence must fit the crime.

The Courts must decide the most appropriate sentence for individual crimes but it is the role of the Parliaments to set the maximum penalties for offences, reflecting their views of the relative seriousness and creating the framework within which sentencing decisions must be made.

In relation to animal cruelty, in England and Wales the maximum sentence is just six months in prison, in Scotland it is slightly better at 12 months.

Both these sentences are much lower than the maximum permitted sentences for many other crimes.

Is it proportionate that the most serious offences of animal cruelty such as torturing an animal to death are considered less serious than, for example, fly tipping or theft?

Maximum permitted custodial sentences for a range of offences in England and Wales

Sentences by crime

Maximum permitted custodial sentences for a range of offences in Scotland

Download our England and Wales report

Download our Scotland report

Find out more

How your support can change the law

Three steps to changing the law for animals.

1. Get the support of your MP or MSP

We need you to encourage your MP or MSP to back five year animal cruelty sentences

Send your email

2. Spread the word

Ask your friends and family to support the campaign too

Share the campaign

3. Change the law

With your help we can get parliament to change the law and help countless animals

Latest news and updates

All the latest news and campaign updates.

MPs in support

Diane Abbott
Heidi Alexander
Sir David Amess
Tonia Antoniazzi
Sir Henry Bellingham
Sir Paul Beresford
Graham Brady
Tom Brake
Alan Brown
Sir Vince Cable
Dr Lisa Cameron
Maria Caulfield
Sarah Champion
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
Ann Clwyd
Vernon Coaker
Rosie Cooper
Marsha de Cordova
Robert Courts
Geoffrey Cox QC
Neil Coyle
David Crausby
Stella Creasy
Jim Cunningham
Sir Edward Davey
Philip Davies
Martyn Day
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
David Drew
Rosie Duffield
Angela Eagle
Jonathan Edwards
Clive Efford
Louise Ellman
Charlie Elphicke
Chris Evans
Tim Farron
Frank Field
Jim Fitzpatrick
Colleen Fletcher
Paul Flynn
Kevin Foster
James Frith
Sir Roger Gale
Mike Gapes
Roger Godsiff
Zac Goldsmith
Kate Green
Sue Hayman
Kate Hoey
Philip Hollobone
Diana Johnson
Gareth Johnson
Susan Elan Jones
Gillian Keegan
Stephen Lloyd
Clive Lewis
Jonathan Lord
Tim Loughton
Caroline Lucas
Ian C Lucas
Anne Main
John Mann
Gordon Marsden
Sandy Martin
Rachael Maskell
Kerry McCarthy
Catherine McKinnell
Anna McMorrin
Ian Mearns
Madeleine Moon
Layla Moran
Nicky Morgan
Stephen Morgan
Gavin Newlands
Caroline Nokes
Brendan O’Hara
Fiona Onasanya
Neil Parish
Teresa Pearce
Matthew Pennycook
Luke Pollard
Stephen Pound
Steve Reed
Christina Rees
Ellie Reeves
Andrew Rosindell
Lloyd Russell-Moyle
Jim Shannon
Barry Sheerman
Tulip Siddiq
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
Angela Smith
Cat Smith
Laura Smith
Alex Sobel
John Spellar
Mark Spencer
Jamie Stone
Jo Swinson
Mark Tami
Gareth Thomas
Stephen Timms
Jon Trickett
Anna Turley
Stephen Twigg
Theresa Villiers
David Warburton
Dr Alan Whitehead
Bill Wiggin
Chris Williamson
Sammy Wilson
Yasmin Qureshi
Andrea Jenkyns
David TC Davies
David Jones
Andrew Bridgen
Chris Davies

MSPs in support

Clare Adamson
Tom Arthur
Claire Baker
Michelle Ballantyne
Colin Beattie
Bill Bowman
 Miles Briggs
Finlay Carson
Willie Coffey
Maurice Corry
Roseanna Cunningham
Graeme Dey
Bob Doris
Annabelle Ewing
Linda Fabiani
John Finnie
Kenneth J Gibson
Jenny Gilruth
Maurice Golden
Christine Grahame
Emma Harper
Patrick Harvie
Clare Haughey
Alison Johnstone
Bill Kidd
Richard Lochhead
Richard Lyle
Angus MacDonald
Rona Mackay
Ben Macpherson
Ruth Maguire
Gillian Martin
John Mason
Liam McArthur
Ivan McKee
Stuart McMillan
Pauline McNeill
Alex Neil
Gail Ross
Alex Rowley
Mark Ruskell
Colin Smyth
David Stewart
Maree Todd
David Torrance
Sandra White
Brian Whittle
Andy Wightman

Why is Battersea telling me about this?

We know these cases are hard to read about, but they’re even harder for the animal concerned. Battersea sees shocking cases of cruelty and neglect where the dogs and cats who come into our care have been put through unimaginable suffering. These animals may face months of veterinary treatment and unfortunately sometimes do not make it. However, even if their abuser is brought to justice and charged with animal cruelty offences, the maximum sentence they can receive in England and Wales is just six months in prison, in Scotland it is just 12 months. Battersea believes this is a wholly inadequate sentence and this is why we are campaigning to increase the maximum sentence to five years in prison.

What is Battersea doing about this?

Battersea has launched a campaign to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to five years, and we are having discussions with key politicians about our campaign.

Battersea aims to take in any dog or cat regardless of their age, breed, or medical condition. Any animal who comes through our gates is cared for and treated by our highly experienced Veterinary team. Many animals are fostered by our staff to make sure they receive all the love and round-the-clock attention they need. All our medical decisions are made in the very best interests of our animals and we will do everything we can to give them a second chance in life. Where necessary, we report suspected cruelty cases to the RSPCA.

Battersea will continue to research this issue and lobby the Government to increase these sentences. We believe that animal cruelty is a serious crime, with serious consequences, and the sentences available in the Courts should reflect this.

Five years isn't enough - why aren't you campaigning for more?

Five years is the highest sentence available anywhere in Europe. While we have some sympathy with people who may feel it should be higher, we believe that this is proportionate and in line with other criminal offences. It would be both a worthwhile punishment and a deterrent in the worst cases, neither of which is the case for the current maximum sentence.

What happens to people who bring an animal to Battersea with evidence of cruelty?

Battersea’s primary consideration is what happens to the animal. We will take in any animal who needs our care irrespective of age, condition or breed. We will, and do, care for animals who have suffered unimaginable medical and psychological damage and try to find them a better future. Taking them in is our first task. If we believe that the animal has been the victim of cruelty and know or suspect where this took place, then we would report the case to the RSPCA.

Why are you only talking about England, Wales and Scotland?

Northern Ireland already has a five-year maximum custodial sentence. We want England, Wales and Scotland to follow their example.

What should I do if I am aware of someone I think is being cruel to an animal?

In England and Wales, if you suspect cruelty to an animal, or group of animals, then you should contact RSPCA’s cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 or visit RSPCA’s online contact page and provide as much detail as you can.

In Scotland, please call the SSPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

What happened with your last campaign about backstreet breeding? Did that make any difference?

Thanks to the help of thousands of people like you, it has made a big difference. The Government has now formally agreed with our campaign and we are working with other charities and Government to make sure these plans are acted upon to improve the lives of puppies and mothers.

With your support, we can make a big difference here too, and start giving animals the protection they deserve.

Will 75,000 emails achieve a change in law?

Not directly, however Battersea would ideally like as many people as possible to email to show their support for an increase in maximum animal cruelty sentences and we have now set a minimum target of 75,000 emails. There is no figure which in and of itself compels the governments to change the law, however, we feel that support on this scale is a very positive step to show governments just how strongly the public feels about the wholly inadequate sentences currently in place.

My MP or MSP is already supporting this, what good will emailing them do now?

The more constituents contacting their MP or MSP, the more politicians know that this issue really matters to the people they represent. If your local representative is already supporting the campaign, we would encourage you to still contact them so they know you support their decision to do so, and would like them to press the Governments further on your behalf.

Why am I being asked to email my MP or MSP?

Emailing your MP or MSP provides the opportunity to show them how important the issue of increasing the maximum sentence for animal cruelty is. MPs and MSPs can do a number of things to push the issue forward, including raising sentencing directly with the Governments.

Comedians are standing up for the animals

Some of the UK’s most beloved comedians are joining forces with Battersea to spread the message that the maximum sentence for animal cruelty in England, Wales and Scotland is so bad, it’s laughable.

The comedians standing up