MSPs join Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, outside Holyrood to call for all politicians to support tougher sentences for animal cruelty. Lenny Warren / © Warren Media

BATTERSEA is calling on the Government to prioritise tougher animal cruelty sentences as a matter of urgency to deter potential offenders and reflect the Scottish public’s view that animal cruelty is not acceptable.

The leading animal welfare charity welcomes Ministers’ renewed commitment to tougher animal cruelty sentences in this week’s Programme for Government (PfG), but is calling on politicians to make this long overdue animal welfare change a matter of top priority.

Battersea’s Chief Executive Claire Horton said: “We’re very pleased that the Scottish Government has reaffirmed their commitment to tougher sentences for animal cruelty in today’s Programme. We hope they’ll make good on this commitment to animal welfare by putting legislation for five-year sentences before Parliament as soon as possible.

“The Westminster Government recently finalised a consultation on raising the maximum sentence for animal cruelty and have committed to bring in tougher sentences in the next few months. We hope to see Scotland match this commitment, so we’ll see five-year maximum sentences across the UK.”

Battersea has been campaigning for England, Wales and Scotland to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years – in line with Northern Ireland. This campaign has been backed by almost 50 MSPs.

It’s now a year since MSPs and MPs from across the political spectrum gathered outside Holyrood to show their support for Battersea’s campaign for tougher animal cruelty sentences, yet legislation to make this a reality has not yet come before Parliament. Battersea is calling on the Government to ensure this happens before another year passes.

Scotland has among the lowest sentences for animal cruelty in Europe, the United States and Australia. Only a few nations, including England and Wales have lower sentences.

Horrific animal cruelty and neglect cases have continued to make the news throughout the past year.

These include an Ayr man who was given just four months in prison for beating a Golden Retriever and throwing it against a wall and a couple in Banff a who were given only a five-year ban on owning pets and a £1,200 fine after starving their cat. By the time it was found, the cat was so emaciated it had to be put down.

Claire Horton adds: “Cases like these show the true cost of animal cruelty. Raising the maximum sentence for these crimes will act as a deterrent and send a clear message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in Scotland.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also pledged her support for Finn’s Law, which will raise the maximum sentences for attacks on service animals – a move which is supported by Battersea.

For more information on Battersea’s campaign to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty, visit www.battersea.org.uk/NotFunny.

Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in Scotland, can be found here.