RSPCA Calls for Tougher Sentences of Convicted Animal Abusers

Less than 8% of convicted animal abusers are sent to prison, as RSPCA calls for tougher sentences

Less than 8% of convicted animal abusers are sent to prison, as RSPCA calls for tougher sentences

Call comes as new report lifts lid on link between animal cruelty and other crime

The RSPCA is calling for tougher sentencing for animal abusers as our new figures reveal that less than 8% of people convicted under the Animal Welfare Act received a prison sentence.

It comes as the Centre for Crime Prevention releases a shocking report exposing the worrying links between animal cruelty and other crimes.

And figures from the RSPCA – the UK’s oldest and largest animal welfare charity – revealed that just 7.7% of defendants taken to court by us received a prison sentence in 2016 and only 5.5% were near the maximum sentence that can be handed down by the courts.

In 2016, 744 defendants were convicted in court of offences in cases brought by the RSPCA.



Number secured by RSPCA

Any prison sentence


More than three months


More than four months



“The maximum sentence for offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine,” RSPCA interim chief executive, Michael Ward, said.

“But the reality is that this rarely happens and while the RSPCA is seeing unbelievably shocking and distressing cases go before the courts, only a tiny proportion of animal abusers actually receive an immediate custodial sentence.

“It’s ironic that is some puppy trade cases we’ve taken the defendants get longer sentences for committing fraud than for the cruelty and suffering they have inflicted on the defenceless dogs.

“In fact, of the 744 defendants brought before the courts last year (2016), only 57 received an immediate jail term and just 15 of those were towards the upper limit.

“RSPCA officers have had to investigate horrendous cases in which dogs have been found buried alive with a nail hammered into their skull, puppies have been kept in damp, dark rooms laying in their own filth and sold to unsuspecting members of the public, horses have been dumped to die on the side of the road and hamsters have been force-fed drugs.”

In one case which concluded in April this year, a Crown Court judge handed down the longest sentence the RSPCA has ever seen – 33 months in prison. But while the 38-year-old faced eight animal welfare offences relating to the selling of dogs, it was the 13 fraud offences he pleaded guilty to which saw him handed such a long prison sentence.

But polling by the RSPCA has shown that seven out of 10 people would like to see sentencing for animal welfare offences toughened up and longer jail terms imposed on offenders who commit the worst cruelty.

Mr Ward added: “We believe it’s important to try to work with owners to help them improve the welfare of their pets and prosecuting people is a last resort.

“While the RSPCA investigated almost 150,000 complaints of cruelty last year, less than 1% of these resulted in a prosecution. However, in some cases, if people refuse to work with us or if the animal’s suffering is simply too severe or extreme, then prosecution is the only real option.

“And we believe the punishment should fit the crime, particularly when it comes to serious, organised animal cruelty such as animal fighting or puppy farming.

“We would like to see the maximum sentences under the Animal Welfare Act increased to five years – bringing us in line with Northern Ireland – so courts have more power and opportunity to impose a sentence they feel reflects the aeriousness of the crime and acts as a deterrent to re-offenders or other animal abusers.”

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