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Bill Esterson MP joins calls for tougher penalties for animal abusers


Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has joined calls for tougher penalties for animal abusers and for stronger enforcement of bans on offenders keeping animals.


Mr Esterson said current sentencing guidelines were inadequate and outdated, remaining unchanged for over a hundred years and therefore failing to reflect the horrific cruelty inflicted on animals in the name of barbaric “sports” such as dog fighting.


England and Wales are lagging behind when it comes to punishing people who abuse animals. The League is calling for maximum sentences to be increased from the current maximum of six months to the more appropriate ceiling of five years. This would bring the law in line with much of the rest of Europe and Northern Ireland, and would better reflect the seriousness of the abuse involved.


Mr Esterson, the MP for Sefton Central in Merseyside, said: “I’m delighted to be supporting the League’s campaign for tougher sentences for animal abuse. As League investigations have shown, dog fighting is a horrific crime involving immense cruelty, and this needs to be better reflected in the penalties handed to perpetrators. The recent election has demonstrated that the public care deeply about animal welfare and want to ensure that animals are properly protected. Sentences need to be increased so that they act as a genuine deterrent.”


Speakers at the event also highlighted the need for a national register of convicted animal abusers to help prevent people banned from keeping animals from flouting the law. No central record of such banning orders is currently kept, potentially leaving offenders free to continue to abuse animals.


Pressure for change has been building recently, both among MPs and the public, with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last year recommending that the maximum penalty for animal welfare offences be increased. MPs have also backed stronger action during backbench Parliamentary debates, and signatures to the League’s petition calling for stronger penalties for dog fighting offences has reached 90,000 signatures.


Mr Esterson added: “Current maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences, including dog fighting are both inadequate and incredibly outdated. Dog fighting remains a significant animal welfare issue in the UK and is one of the most horrific forms of organised animal cruelty - not only for the violence the dogs endure during fights but because of the trauma they suffer throughout their lives.


“Currently perpetrators of dog fighting will face a maximum six months in prison, compared to fly tippers who face five years. This is ludicrous and needs to change, starting with the law being brought into line with much of the rest of Europe and Northern Ireland by increasing the maximum sentence to five years’ imprisonment.”

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