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Animal abusers ‘getting away with it’ and committing further crimes

A study found more than 92% of those found guilty of animal abuse avoid prison.

People found guilty of animal cruelty go on to commit a huge number of other offences – including murder – but nine out of 10 cases do not result in a prison sentence, a report has warned.

In the 10 years leading up to the end of 2015, 13,835 offences were committed by those with a previous conviction, or caution for animal cruelty, including murder and rape.

But the Centre for Crime Prevention, which compiled the report, said that despite the seriousness of animal cruelty offences and the strong evidence of links to other crimes, serious penalties are extremely rare, with more than 92% of those found guilty avoiding prison.

Among those given a fine or a suspended sentence rather than going to prison were criminals who starved a dog to death, strangled a cat and threw it in the bin, filmed themselves throwing a bulldog down the stairs so many times that she had to be put down, and set a puppy on fire.

Those convicted of animal cruelty offences have gone on to commit thousands of crimes, including robbery, theft, the rape and neglect of children, and murder.

Animal cruelty is also overwhelmingly committed by people already found guilty of previous offences, with half (48%) of those convicted of animal cruelty offences already having at least four previous convictions or cautions for other crimes.

The Centre for Crime Prevention, which campaigns for better prevention of crime, is calling for tougher sentences for animal cruelty to “protect people and animals alike”.

Its analysis found that of the 13,835 offences committed by those with a previous conviction or caution for animal cruelty over 10 years, 1,437 were violent offences – 16 of them murders.

They were also behind 202 sexual offences, including 19 rapes of a female under 16, eight rapes of a child under 13, and 26 cases of sexual assault on a female under 13.

There were 97 cases of cruelty or neglect to children by those who had previously been cruel to animals, while they committed 175 robberies and 5,557 thefts.

RSPCA officers remove a dog from a farm (PA)

Three out of four (73%) criminals convicted of animal cruelty offences already had at least one previous conviction or caution while one in four (28%) had at least 10 previous convictions or cautions.

But the report said that of the 13,862 criminals convicted or cautioned for animal cruelty, just 1,063 (7.7%) received a prison sentence.

The report said the current maximum sentence for animal cruelty of six months in prison is the lowest in Europe and recommends that it should be brought in line with Northern Ireland and increased to five years.

Peter Cuthbertson, director of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said: “We need more serious, prolific criminals in prison. This would protect people and animals alike, because it’s so often the same criminals who are a threat to both people and animals.”

The RSPCA said it would also like to see the maximum sentence increased to five years.

Its interim chief executive, Michael Ward, said: “It’s ironic that in some puppy trade cases we’ve taken, the defendants get longer sentences for committing fraud than for the cruelty and suffering they have inflicted on the defenceless dogs.”

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