Publication types:

Publication topics:
Animal cruelty

Published on:

10 May 2022

A consultation paper on the sentencing of animal cruelty offences.

This consultation closed on 1 August 2022.

What was this consultation about?

The existing sentencing guideline for animal cruelty was last revised in 2017 and, until 2021, the offences it covered were summary only, triable in magistrates’ courts and subject to a maximum penalty of six months’ custody.

In 2021, Parliament passed the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which increased the maximum sentence for specific offences under the 2006 Act from six months’ to five years’ custody and made these either way offences, meaning they could be heard in magistrates’ courts or the Crown Court. The following offences were impacted by the change:

  • Causing unnecessary suffering (section 4, Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • Carrying out a non-exempted mutilation (section 5, Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • Docking the tail of a dog except where permitted (section 6(1) and 6(2), Animal Welfare Act 2006);
  • Administering a poison to an animal (section 7, Animal Welfare Act 2006); and
  • Involvement in an animal fight (section 8, Animal Welfare Act 2006).

In light of this legislative change, we are seeking to revise and update the sentencing guideline for animal cruelty, to provide fuller guidance to sentencers. This will also replace the interim guidance that was issued when the statutory maximum penalty was increased.

We consulted on two draft guidelines:

Who was asked to respond?

The Council was seeking views from anyone who uses sentencing guidelines in their work or who has an interest in sentencing. We would also like to hear from individuals and organisations representing anyone who could be affected by the proposals including:

  • Pet owners and those who look after animals;
  • Defendants and their families;
  • Those under probation supervision or youth offending teams/supervision;
  • Those with protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

What did we want to know?

Through this consultation process, we sought views on:

  • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guidelines more or less serious;
  • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
  • the types and lengths of sentence that should be passed;
  • Whether there are any issues relating to disparity of sentencing and/or broader matters relating to equality and diversity that the guidelines could and should address; and
  • anything else you think should be considered.

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