Longer jail terms are needed for animal cruelty offenses, says British legislator Adrian Sanders. The current maximum sentence of 51 weeks is not a proper deterrent since most offenders end up serving much less than half the term, he said.
Speaking during a Parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall, Sanders argued that a maximum sentence of two years would be a better deterrent, as it would mean more people were likely to serve at least six months in jail.
DOG AND COCKFIGHTING
Dog and cockfighting are prevalent in Britain. Since 2006, anyone participating in, organizing, promoting, making a recording of, or betting on an animal fight is liable up to a maximum jail sentence of 51 weeks and a fine of £20,000 (approx. $32,000).
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The government has stated it "deplores" animal cruelty, especially animal fighting, and penalties have been increased in recent years; however, crime has also increased continually. According to government data, there have been about a thousand convictions for illegal animal fighting, with only about 10 percent of those being jailed.
Adrian Sanders, Lib Dem MP for Torbay, contends that those receiving custodial sentences rarely serve more than eight weeks in prison because judges have a tendency to "under-sentence."
"We must give judges the power to punish the most egregious acts of animal cruelty," Sanders said.
Responding for the government, Environment Minister George Eustice said the internet had made it easier to organize certain types of dog fights. "The government deplores animal cruelty... and believes offenders deserve the full force of the law," he said. However, it is up to magistrates to decide what sentences are appropriate within the official guidelines.
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Judges have a "great deal of discretion" when it comes to determining the gravity of individual cases, he added, although he noted that nobody had yet been sentenced to the maximum sentence available under the law.
He said judges would now be expected to explain why anyone convicted of animal cruelty is not subsequently disqualified from owning or keeping animals.
The RSPCA reported that the number of convictions for animal neglect and cruelty following private prosecutions brought by the organization rose by a third in England and Wales last year.