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Government admits need for tougher penalties

Following the launch of their 'Not Funny' campaign, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has welcomed the Government's acknowledgement that the current punishment for animal cruelty offences are inadequate.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, stated in the House of Commons on Thursday and reiterated in a speech on Friday that the current penalties for such offences are not strong enough.

Michael Gove said, "I am not someone who will automatically reach for stronger criminal sanctions as the only route to dealing with a particular problem, but there are particular cases of animal cruelty where we may well need to revisit the existing criminal sanctions in order to ensure that the very worst behaviour is dealt with, with the full force of the law."

The charity launched its campaign earlier this year, calling for an increase in the maximum sentence in England and Wales, from just six months to five years. They've received support from some of the UK's best-loved comedians including Paul O'Grady, Ricky Gervais and Sue Perkins. More than 50,000 people have so far contacted their MP to call for stronger sentences and 79 MPs have already done so.

Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton, commented, "Battersea welcomes the Government’s apparent change of heart on this vital welfare issue and it’s very encouraging to see Mr Gove acknowledge that some of the sickening animal cruelty cases that pass through our courts are not being properly punished, offering no deterrent for serious offenders. Battersea wants the maximum sentence to be increased to five years.

"It’s heart warming to note that the Secretary of State feels strongly about such cruelty to animals and we have invited Mr Gove to visit Battersea to see first-hand some of the animals in our care who are the innocent victims of such abuse and cruelty."

Stewart's story

Earlier this year, Battersea rescued and treated an emaciated dog named Stewart, who they believe was kept indoors and starved. It required months of care to bring Stewart back to a healthy weight.

It's believed Stewart was deliberately starved

Claire Horton added, "Thanks to the hourly care Stewart received at Battersea, he found a loving new home – but many animals are not fortunate enough to receive this second chance in life. The people that did this to Stewart didn’t even go to prison and six months as a maximum penalty for deliberate cruelty is a joke and this must change."

For more information on Battersea's campaign and how to get involved, visit their website.