In England and Wales, the maximum
sentence for animal cruelty is just
and in Scotland it is just one year
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.
England, Wales and Scotland have some of
maximum sentences for animal
cruelty in Europe and the USA
The chart below shows the maximum custodial penalties provided for in law for animal cruelty in 100 jurisdictions around the world. These include:
The penalties shown are for the most serious cases of animal cruelty, such as intentionally torturing an animal, causing it serious injury or death.
Of the 100 jurisdictions studied:
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.
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.
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?
With your help we can get parliament to change the law and help countless animals