I have received a number of e-mails expressing concerns about the nature of sentencing for animal cruelty offences.
I am pleased that we have a robust legal framework to tackle this vicious behaviour in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
The courts must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account its circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council.
Although the maximum penalty currently stands at six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine can also be applied in conjunction with this sentence or applied as an alternative form of punishment. The courts can also disqualify offenders from keeping animals for as long as they consider appropriate.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is in regular contact with the Ministry of Justice in relation to sentencing policy for animal welfare offences, but I would note that current sentencing practice does not suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate.
Thank you again for taking the time to e-mail me about this important issue.