Animal Welfare Ramblings and the RSPCA on a Saturday Night

RSPCA Conviction and Welfare Statistics 2011

Thank you to everyone that has supported me on my journey to vet school! I know money is tight at the moment however giving just £1 will give animals an advocate to fight for them for the next 40 years!!!

Today has been interesting, I’ve not done as much of my dissertation as I had hoped as I got distracted by other things. However it really has been an eye-opener of a day.

I started with a discussion of the currently legislation for prevention of cruelty to animals in the UK, basically the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which replaced the Protection of Animals Act 1911. This was a much needed update to the legislation which had previously concentrated on farm animals and missed out companion animals (which were not as common). The Animal Welfare Act 2006 gives animals the 5 freedoms of

  • A suitable place to live
  • Suitable food and water
  • To be able to express normal behaviour
  • To have the social companionship requirements met (whether that be with others or alone)
  • To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

The biggest change it brings in is for animals at risk of harm to be confiscated from a person before suffering injury or harm. It sets the maximum fine of £20,000 and up to 51 weeks in prison. It also gives the power for issuing lifetime disqualification (ban) orders against people owning or keeping animals. Today however thanks to a conversation on twitter I became aware of the fact that the sentancing guidlines do not allow for this to be enforced. The sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty (avaliable here) state that offencing is Summary (cannot go to county/crown court) and with a maximum sentance of just 6 months which doesn’t match the maximum set in the AWA 2006 for some reason. If you know the reason leave a comment below as I am curious!

There were several tweets on my timeline at the time complaining about the RSPCA having 1.25million reports of animal cruelty yet only around 1000 prosecutions… I know there is only around 350 inspectors within the country yet this number sounded wrong to me so I did some digging. I found the RSPCA Trustee Report and Accounts 2011, and found this on page 12…

RSPCA Conviction and Welfare Statistics 2011Now looking at the Number of convictions there is almost a 27% increase from 2010 even though the amount of cruelty complaints invesitgated remained around the same. And more to the point this shows the statistics being given on twitter to be completely wrong. I support and respect the job RSPCA Inspectors do, and it is important to remember that a telephone call to the RSPCA may not always be a report of cruelty. The RSPCA get called for advice, rescuing animals (for example a fox stuck behind a shed) and more.

I know in relation to other offences the sentencing for animal cruelty is weak, however I believe in disqualifying these people from owning/keeping animals they have a lifetime sentance as they will never experience the unconditional love that animals can give. In terms of updating the law, longer sentences would be good, however what urgently needs investigating is why the sentencing guidelines do not give magistrates the power to prosecute to the full extent of the law.

Now this led me on to the government epetitions website and I did a quick search on animal cruelty. It gave me 3 pages of results of 47 petitions all basically trying to do the same thing, all with under 2000 signitures. My understanding is that a petition needs to reach 100,000 signitures before it will be discussed, that it will be discussed by the backbench committee if they have time, and that to be discussed it needs to be proposed by a MP. The last I heard was that the backbench committee already have a full calender and that no extra time i scheduled to hear these petitions – or at least this was the reason given as to why the convicted london rioters losing benefits petition was not discussed even with 258,00+ signatures.

Sadly even the major animal charities with media coverage fail to meet the goal of 100,000 signatures as shown with their petition for overhauling dog laws in the UK here Now I personally believe that working together rather than competiting against each other is the way to go, and so I would like to see a single person or organisation stepping forward to research the situation properly and fully, and to run and manage a campaign to fix these gaps in the law.

I am against animal cruelty, I applaud the RSPCA for the work they do, and I as a potential vet will work to see animal welfare improved.

Please do consider my give a pound appeal.

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