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Majority of RSPCA prosecutions involve dogs

Issue: 14/04/2017

The RSPCA has released its latest prosecution statistics, which have dropped slightly over recent years. 
In 2016 they investigated just under 150,000 complaints of animal cruelty in England and Wales and secured 1,477 convictions. The vast majority of these offences were committed against dogs with 858 people convicted. This figure is down on previous years when there were 1,470 convictions under the Animal Welfare Act against dogs in 2014 and 1,061 in 2015.
There were over a million calls to the RSPCA's 24 hour cruelty line which resulted in 149,604 complaints of cruelty investigated. The number of cases passed on to the prosecutions department was 1,415. It should be noted that a case may concern one or more suspects.
The charity has a prosecution success rate of 92.5 percent and 58 people were sent to prison last year. This a fall from the two previous years when over 70 people went to jail.
The vast majority of people received suspended or community sentences and fines. There were 628 disqualification orders imposed on individuals under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
At the moment the Labour MP, Anna Turley, is trying to get a Private Members' Bill through parliament to increase the length of sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years. There is no sign, at the moment, that the government are considering changing this tariff. Defra ignored a report on animal welfare from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) that called for an increase in the maximum sentence to five years.
EFRA also recommended that, 'the RSPCA should continue its important work investigating animal welfare cases and working closely with the police and statutory authorities. It should, however, withdraw from acting as a prosecutor of first resort where there are statutory bodies with a duty to carry out this role. We are not convinced by its arguments that it is in a better position than the CPS to prosecute animal welfare cases.'
However the government also ignored this recommendation and decided that they should continue to prosecute animal cruelty cases. This is despite calls from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) which made a submission to Defra stating that a government agency would be better equipped to take the prosecution role with greater accountability.
In Scotland the SSPCA  investigates cases and passes on the cases to the Procurator Fiscal. This is seen by some to be a more robust model. This current report does not reveal how much was spent by the RSPCA on prosecutions but they did admit to the EFRA committee it can spend up to 8million a year on prosecutions.
This year, however, did see an increase on the number of cases that were referred to the CPS for intervention. There were eight cases that were referred whereas in 2015 the figure was just four.
In the 10 years since the Animal Welfare Act was introduced there have been 15,787 convictions for cruelty against dogs. The RSPCA remains the main prosecutor of animal cruelty offences in England and Wales.
You can read the full report at

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