MP calls for tougher sentencing for animal cruelty after a spate of cat poisoning

Mark Spencer MP.
Mark Spencer MP.
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Sherwood MP Mark Spencer is calling for tougher sentencing on animal cruelty following a spate of cat poisoning in the area.

The MP chaired a debate at Westminster Hall this afternoon, saying it is time to put an end to the problem of lenient sentencing for animal cruelty.

Ahead of the meeting, the MP said: “Today, I will be chairing a Westminster Hall debate on sentencing for animal cruelty. I believe that it’s time to put an end to the problem of lenient sentencing for these crimes.

“In my constituency, Sherwood, there has been a spate of cat poisonings that has left my constituents afraid to let their beloved pets outside the house. This is part of a wider problem that we have seen around the country.

“The charity Cats Protection has reported that around 50 cats a month are poisoned in the UK, mostly with anti-freeze. I believe that it’s time we tackle this problem head-on, because until we introduce tougher sentencing guidelines for people that carry out these cruel acts, they will continue to act with impunity.”

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides for a maximum sentence of 51 weeks’ custody and/or a £20,000 fine for any attempt to kill an animal by poisoning, yet there are no examples of anybody in the UK ever having been jailed for this offence.

“Can this be right? Not even the sentencing guidelines outlined by the Sentencing Council have ever been properly adhered to. The harshest punishment given so far is a suspended 12-week sentence for a man who indiscriminately left poisoned chicken out on the streets for cats and other pets to eat.

“If we look at the kind of sentences people receive around Europe, we can see that the UK lags behind in this area. In Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Bulgaria, the recommended sentence is 3 years’ custody.”

He said Politicians and consumers alike must put pressure on manufacturers to introduce a totally pet-friendly anti-freeze, where the toxic agents are completely neutralised – or better, removed altogether. The MP added: “Public pressure worked in this way to almost entirely eradicate battery farming for egg production, and we can do the same to ensure the safety of our pets.

“Research by the RSPCA has consistently shown that the public broadly believes that in cases of deliberate and premeditated animal cruelty, the sentences usually do not fit the crime. I am going to use my Westminster Hall debate to raise this fact, and try to persuade my colleagues that in order to be taken seriously on this matter, courts need to be seen to act decisively.

“The UK is a nation of animal lovers and I think it’s time that we reflected that in our legal system, by bringing our sentencing guidelines into line with the rest of Europe and making sure that criminals don’t get away with these crimes any more.”

The RSPCA said even the smallest amount of antifreeze can kill pets, especially cats, and that any spillages should be cleaned up immediately.

It advises poisons should be kept in robust, locked containers and should always be disposed of carefully.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include vomiting, seeming depressed or sleepy, appearing drunk and uncoordinated, seizures, difficulty breathing, increased thirst and increased urination.

Signs of antifreeze poisoning can be seen 30 minutes after ingestion.

It can be two-three days before signs of kidney failure are seen.

Anyone who suspects their pet has drank poison should go to a vet immediately.

The RSPCA website said: “The sooner your pet receives veterinary treatment, the better their chances of survival.

“If left untreated, antifreeze poisoning can cause pain, suffering and distress and ultimately death.”