The Changing Landscape Of Animal Cruelty

  • 28/01/2020
animal-cruelty.jpgDespite society’s changing attitudes and actions against animal abuse and cruelty, far too many examples of this abhorrent behaviour continue to occur in cities and rural areas. Animal cruelty covers a multitude of categories, including hoarding, neglect, intentional abuse, abandonment, puppy mills, and organised abuse, such as dogfighting. When the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 was passed, its purpose was to address severe examples of animal cruelty legally; however, it didn’t go far enough in effectively punishing perpetrators of animal abuse.

With the help of pet and livestock owners, rescues and shelters, and animal advocates, the UK government introduced the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill in June 2019. Designed to replace and strengthen the 2006 Act, this new bill would deter further animal cruelty and give judges the ability to provide appropriate sentencing to individuals who commit gross animal abuse. It would also allow England and Wales to catch up with Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, which already have five-year sentencing punishments for animal cruelty.

The Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill of 2019-2020

In response to some of the most recent and heinous examples of animal cruelty in England and Wales, multiple judges noted in their summations and court decisions that they were frustrated by the lack of appropriate means to sentence animal abusers. Several high profile cases prompted this outcry from both animal advocates and judges, including:

●      a man who purchased and systematically killed puppies by beating, choking, and stabbing them and received six months imprisonment;

●      a man who beat his girlfriend’s dog to death and was sentenced to four months imprisonment;

●      a man who gave his dog aspirin to kill her then beat her to death with a shovel instead and received a sentence of four months in prison.

The judges in these cases stated they would have sentenced these men to more time had the law allowed.

Public attitudes toward animal abuse and cruelty have changed substantially since the passage of the Animal Welfare Act of 2006. No longer is animal hoarding, livestock neglect, equine abuse, dog fighting, puppy mills, and docking dogs’ tails actions that people turn away from or ignore altogether. Thus, the introduction of the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill of 2019-2020 to Parliament.

The 2019-2020 bill eliminates existing disparities between previously passed Acts and the sentencing amounts given to animal abusers in court. Under the 2006 Act, abusers could receive only a maximum of six months in gaol or a fine and relinquished the right to own, train, or transport animals. As this Act did little to slow down incidents of abuse, the 2019-2020 bill was proposed in its place. The Sentencing Bill of 2019-2020 would not only expand the legal definition of animal abuse, but it would also raise the minimum sentence for abusers to six to twelve months or a fine. For the most severe abuse cases, judges could sentence abusers to a maximum of five years imprisonment or a fine. The goal of the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill is to deter animal cruelty further and to give judges the power to punish the worst abusers with more appropriate sentences.

Back to the Drawing Board

Unfortunately, with the political upheaval in Parliament and the angst over Brexit, the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill has fallen short of passage. Although the bill was expected to sail smoothly through the Parliamentary system, the chaos in the English government has impacted the bill, despite its cross-party support. The prorogation of Parliament prior to the Queen’s Speech means that the legislation cannot be carried over into Parliament’s next term.

Proponents of the bill must start all over through both houses of Parliament in 2020 to bring the bill back up for passage. Sadly, more animals will suffer abuse and cruelty during this delay, and their perpetrators will be punished under the 2006 Act’s sentencing guidelines, with no more than six months imprisonment for the worst offenders.

How You Can Help

While the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill cycles back through Parliament in 2020, there are several actions you can take to help fight animal abuse in your community, specifically in helping abused dogs.

●      Speak up about dog abuse occurring in your community. Know your local dog laws, and if you suspect abuse, contact your local animal control officer or humane organisation. In emergency cases, call 122 or 999 in Ireland, and 999 in England or Wales. Confront the perpetrator only if it’s safe, although it’s best to leave one-on-one conversations to the Gardai.

●      Donate money to your local dog shelter. You can make a one-time direct donation to the rescue or charity or make monthly donations through your financial account. Many shelters have Amazon wishlists, and you can purchase items there that will go directly to assisting abused dogs. Fundraisers are another excellent way to raise money for animals in need; you can either start one yourself or take part in a charity event.

●      Donate your time and volunteer at a local rescue or shelter. These humane organisations are on the front lines of combating animal abuse. They need all the help from the community that they can get, including hands-on assistance. Shelters often need reliable dog walkers, kennel cleaners, and dog fosterers to help re-socialise dogs who have experienced significant physical and emotional pain. Make sure you are emotionally capable of handling the physical evidence of abuse that you will see working in a rescue facility.

●      Adopt a formerly abused dog. This decision is one that takes significant time, patience, commitment, and love, but it is more than worth it to help a dog find trust in people again. Many humane organisations and dog trainers will be happy to help you and your dog progress through a new, happy life together.

Until the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill passes, there are many avenues available for you to help your community fight back against animal cruelty. Speak up, donate, volunteer, or adopt, and your village, town, or city will be one step closer to ending animal abuse.

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