Neil spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on sentencing for those found guilty of animal cruelty. A full video of the 60 minute debate can be found at this link: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/993b1452-3c68-42b9-a11c-ce842f…
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. Thank you very much for dividing up the time; I shall try to ensure that I keep my speech below five minutes.
I thank Anna Turley not only for introducing her Bill but for securing this debate. Whatever political party one comes from, what is going on is just abhorrent. The major issue, on which I hope we will hear more from the Minister, is the fact that however horrendous the crime, the maximum sentence that can be awarded is six months’ imprisonment. If the perpetrator pleads guilty, they automatically get two months knocked off that sentence, so they often serve around four months for the most horrendous crimes.
I agree entirely with the hon. Lady that if someone can string up a dog, cat or any other animal and beat it to death or kick it downstairs, or whatever the other horrendous things that have been happening are, it will not be too long before they can do that to a human. The Americans and others are linking things up and creating a register of those who have committed animal welfare crimes, and that would be a good way forward for this country.
Some individuals will be just completely and utterly cruel and base; perhaps others will be challenged in some way and so not necessarily able to understand all they are doing. It is a combination of all those things. There needs to be a link with social services, but we also need to send a message not only to those who are blatantly cruel but to those taking part in dog fights and keeping dogs for that purpose. There is a criminal element out there. Sometimes, making money from inflicting animal cruelty can be an easy way of making some sort of a horrible living.
We are talking about sentient beings. Animals feel pain. Many of us present will have animals of our own. At home we have both a dog and a cat, and I have had many other animals in my time as a farmer. When someone has an animal, they are its protector. Animals cannot protect themselves, so they are very much in our care. They give us much love, and then what do we do?
Individuals treat them so dreadfully and they cannot protect themselves. It is just absolutely horrendous. We need to ensure that we send the right message to everyone out there that if they are going to abuse an animal and beat it to death, they will get a sentence of at least five years, if not longer. That would ensure that we at least send out the message that animal abuse is absolutely wrong and that perpetrators will go to prison, and it would prevent others from going down the same route.
I do not wish to say anything further because there are others who wish to speak, but I ask the Minister to please deal with this problem seriously, as they have done in Northern Ireland. Let us be clear and put up the sentences massively.
I pay tribute to the RSPCA, Battersea dogs home, the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and many other charities that do some marvellous work in trying to make sure that our animals are protected and looked after properly.