Protest for animal cruelty convictions to be punished with harsher sentences
Animal rights campaigners are preparing to protest outside Belfast's High Court demanding harsher sentences in cruelty cases.
The group Northern Ireland Says No to Animal Cruelty (NISNTAC) said some 16 people were convicted for causing unnecessary suffering to animals so far this year but none have been jailed.
In some cases livestock have been severely neglected while another involved a pet dog starved to death.
A NISNTAC spokesman said: "We feel that justice is not being served.
"Starving an animal to death requires time and commitment.
"These cases are not the result of casual thoughtlessness.
"They are deliberate and methodical acts of neglect where someone has made a conscious choice to deny the animal in their care even the most basic requirements to survive.
"The result for that animal is a slow and painful death."
Following a review of legislation, judges have the power to hand down stiffer sentences.
The maximum jail term that can be handed down for animal welfare offences is five years.
In recent years, a number of high profile cases have sparked public outrage.
One of the most shocking saw Cody, a collie dog doused in a flammable liquid and set alight in Co Antrim in 2012. She suffered extensive burns and died from the injuries several days later.
In 2014, there was also an outcry when four men who admitted keeping and training animals for dog fighting walked free from court with suspended sentences.
The NISNTAC spokesman added: " We call upon every party leader who included animal welfare in their 2016 manifesto to stand with us and show that they really mean what they said.
"Most importantly we call upon the judges, the Attorney General and the Judicial Studies Board to change sentencing guidelines.
"Animals are not mere property but living, breathing and loving beings that feel every bit of suffering we feel and deserve the same protections under the law as we do."
The demonstration is due to take place on Saturday May 14 at 11am outside the Royal Courts of Justice.