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Animal cruelty – punishment should fit the crime, say PCT

THE PET Care Trust, the national charity promoting responsible pet ownership, has welcomed the publication of the latest figures released by the RSPCA declaring a rise in animal cruelty cases.

This report underscores the Pet Care Trust’s belief that stiffer penalties should be introduced for the severest cases of animal cruelty than those proposed in the Government’s flagship Animal Welfare Bill.

‘The worst cases of animal cruelty should be tried as criminal expenses in the Trust’s view – the same as breaking an ASBO or non-payment of council tax’, said Janet Nunn, Chief Executive of the Trust. ‘As it stands, the Bill proposes all offences are treated as summary offences, meaning a maximum prison sentence of 51 weeks and/or a fine of up to £20k. However, convicted offenders are likely to serve no more than 25 weeks of the longest sentence. If cases were dealt with in a criminal court, sentences could be increased up to five years.’

The Trust believes the RSPCA’s proposed prosecutions should be passed by an independent body such as the Crown Prosecution Service or the local authority legal department. Such a system is used in Scotland; the SSPCA propose prosecutions to the Procurator Fiscal for independent consideration.

Janet Nunn continued: ‘The current system lacks independent scrutiny. It’s uncomfortable for England and Wales to have the RSPCA as enforcer, private prosecutor and sole data source, given how they fundraise on the back of prosecutions.’

Pet owners are spending more money than ever on a wide range of products for their pets including life-stage foods, accessories, insurance and services such as grooming, boarding, pet-sitting and dog walking.