Target: 75,000




of our target


political supporters

What we want to change

What's happened so far?

The Scottish Government has announced a Bill to introduce five-year maximum sentences for animal cruelty. An MP has brought forward a Bill for five-year sentences in England, which will also apply to Wales. We need your help to ensure five-year sentences become law.

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. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has now been published in Parliament, however we need your help by asking your MP to back the Bill and make five year sentences for animal cruelty law.

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

It will only take a few minutes and it could help change the law for animals.

1. Tell your MP or MSP to back the Bill

Email your MP or MSP, asking them to back five-year sentences for animal cruelty

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 the UK and Scottish Parliaments to change the law and help countless animals

Latest news and updates

All the latest news and campaign updates.

MPs in support

Diane AbbottHackney North and Stoke Newington
Nigel AdamsSelby and Ainsty
Heidi AlexanderLewisham East
Sir David AmessSouthend West
Tonia AntoniazziGower
Sir Henry BellinghamNorth West Norfolk
Sir Paul BeresfordMole Valley
Graham BradyAltrincham and Sale West
Ben BradleyMansfield
Tom BrakeCarshalton and Wallington
Andrew BridgenNorth West Leicestershire
Alan BrownKilmarnock and Loudoun
Sir Vince CableTwickenham
Dr Lisa CameronEast Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
Maria CaulfieldLewes
Sarah ChampionRotherham
Geoffrey Clifton-BrownThe Cotswolds
Ann ClwydCynon Valley
Vernon CoakerGedling
Rosie CooperWest Lancashire
Marsha de CordovaBattersea
Robert CourtsWitney
Geoffrey Cox QCTorridge and West Devon
Neil CoyleBermondsey and Old Southwark
David CrausbyBolton North East
Stella CreasyWalthamstow
Jim CunninghamCoventry South
Alex CunninghamStockton North
Sir Edward DaveyKingston and Surbiton
Philip DaviesShipley
David TC DaviesMonmouth
Chris DaviesBrecon and Radnorshire
Martyn DayLinlithgow and East Falkirk
Sir Jeffrey DonaldsonLagan Valley
David DrewStroud
Rosie DuffieldCanterbury
Angela EagleWallasey
Jonathan EdwardsCarmarthen East and Dinefwr
Clive EffordEltham
Louise EllmanLiverpool, Riverside
Charlie ElphickeDover
Chris EvansIslwyn
Tim FarronWestmorland and Lonsdale
Frank FieldBirkenhead
Jim FitzpatrickPoplar and Limehouse
Colleen FletcherCoventry North East
Kevin FosterTorbay
James FrithBury North
Sir Roger GaleNorth Thanet
Mike GapesIlford South
Roger GodsiffBirmingham, Hall Green
Zac GoldsmithRichmond Park
Kate GreenStretford and Urmston
Sue HaymanWorkington
Kate HoeyVauxhall
Philip HolloboneKettering
Andrea JenkynsMorley and Outwood
Diana JohnsonKingston Upon Hull North
Gareth JohnsonDartford
Susan Elan JonesClwyd South
David JonesClwyd West
Gillian KeeganChichester
Clive LewisNorwich South
Stephen LloydEastbourne
Jonathan LordWoking
Tim LoughtonEast Worthing and Shoreham
Caroline LucasBrighton Pavilion
Ian C LucasWrexham
Anne MainSt Albans
John MannBassetlaw
Gordon MarsdenBlackpool South
Sandy MartinIpswich
Rachael MaskellYork Central
Kerry McCarthyBristol East
Catherine McKinnellNewcastle upon Tyne North
Anna McMorrinCardiff North
Ian MearnsGateshead
Madeleine MoonBridgend
Layla MoranOxford West and Abingdon
Nicky MorganLoughborough
Stephen MorganPortsmouth South
Gavin NewlandsPaisley and Renfrewshire North
Caroline NokesRomsey and Southampton North
Brendan O’HaraArgyll and Bute
Fiona OnasanyaPeterborough
Neil ParishTiverton and Honiton
Teresa PearceErith and Thamesmead
Matthew PennycookGreenwich and Woolwich
Luke PollardPlymouth, Sutton and Devonport
Stephen PoundEaling North
Yasmin QureshiBolton South East
Steve ReedCroydon North
Christina ReesNeath
Ellie ReevesLewisham West and Penge
Andrew RosindellRomford
Lloyd Russell-MoyleBrighton, Kemptown
Jim ShannonStrangford
Barry SheermanHuddersfield
Tulip SiddiqHampstead and Kilburn
Tanmanjeet Singh DhesiSlough
Angela SmithPenistone and Stocksbridge
Cat SmithLancaster and Fleetwood
Laura SmithCrewe and Nantwich
Alex SobelLeeds North West
John SpellarWarley
Mark SpencerSherwood
Jo StevensCardiff Central
Jamie StoneCaithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Jo SwinsonEast Dunbartonshire
Mark TamiAlyn and Deeside
Gareth ThomasHarrow West
Stephen TimmsEast Ham
Jon TrickettHemsworth
Anna TurleyRedcar
Stephen TwiggLiverpool West Derby
Theresa VilliersChipping Barnet
David WarburtonSomerton and Frome
Giles WatlingClacton
Dr Alan WhiteheadSouthampton
Bill WigginNorth Herefordshire
Chris WilliamsonDerby North
Sammy WilsonEast Antrim

MSPs in support

Clare AdamsonMotherwell and Wishaw
Tom ArthurRenfrewshire South
Claire BakerMid Scotland & Fife
Michelle BallantyneSouth Scotland
Colin BeattieMidlothian North and Musselburgh
Bill BowmanNorth East Scotland
Miles BriggsLothian
Finlay CarsonGalloway and West Dumfrie
Willie CoffeyKilmarnock and Irvine Valley
Maurice CorryWest of Scotland
Roseanna CunninghamPerthshire South and Kinross-shire
Graeme DeyAngus South
Bob DorisGlasgow Maryhill and Springburn
Annabelle EwingCowdenbeath
Linda FabianiEast Kilbride
John FinnieHighlands and Islands
Kenneth J GibsonCunningham North
Jenny GilruthMid Fife and Glenrothes
Maurice GoldenWest Scotland
Christine GrahameMid. South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale
Jamie Halcro JohnstonHighlands and Island
Emma HarperSouth Scotland
Patrick HarvieGlasgow
Clare HaugheyRutherglen
Alison JohnstoneLothian
Bill KiddGlasgow Anniesland
Richard LochheadMoray
Richard LyleUddingston and Bellshill
Angus MacDonaldFalkirk East
Rona MackayStrathkelvin and Bearsden
Ben MacphersonEdinburgh Northern and Leith
Ruth MaguireCunninghame South
Gillian MartinAberdeenshire East
John MasonGlasgow Shettleston
Liam McArthurOrkney Islands
Fulton McGregorCoatbridge and Chryston
Ivan McKeeGlasgow Provan
Stuart McMillanGreenock and Inverclyde
Pauline McNeillGlasgow
Alex NeilAirdrie and Shotts
Gail RossCaithness, Sutherland and Ross
Alex RowleyMid Scotland and Fife
Mark RuskellMid Scotland and Fife
Colin SmythSouth Scotland
David StewartHighlands and Islands
Maree ToddHighlands and Islands
David TorranceKirkcaldy
Sandra WhiteGlasgow Kelvin
Brian WhittleSouth of Scotland
Andy WightmanLothian

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, and 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 believes that animal cruelty is a serious crime, with serious consequences, and Courts should be able to reflect this in sentencing.

Battersea launched a campaign in February 2017 to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to five years. We are delighted that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has been reintroduced in Parliament, and we are working with MPs across Westminster to ensure that this is done quickly and effectively.

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.

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

Looking at maximum sentences across Europe, we believe that five years is an appropriate penalty. 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 Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

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

The Government agreed with our campaign, and in partnership with other charities we worked together to change the law in 2018. This will make life better for many puppies and their mothers.

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

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 contact them asking them to support this Bill. 

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. We need as many MPs and MSPs pledging their support for a maximum sentence of five year for animal cruelty to make sure a swift change in the law is a priority in both Westminster and Holyrood.

I live in Scotland, how does this new Bill affect me?

The Scottish Government and Parliament have the responsibility of delivering legislation that affects animal welfare in Scotland.

The Scottish Government have announced a new Bill in the latest Programme for Government on 3 September 2019. The Animal Health and Welfare Amendment Bill will increase the maximum sentences for animal cruelty from one to five-years in Scotland; and we expect it to be laid before the Scottish Parliament by the end of the year.

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