Belfast Telegraph

Our cruelty laws need toughened

By Steven Agnew

What happened to Cecil the lion was tragic and appalling, but with animal cruelty rife in Northern Ireland I'll focus my ire on achieving change here.

Last month the mutilated remains of a greyhound were found dumped in the River Foyle, its ears severed to prevent the owner being identified by markings.

Sadly this is not an isolated incident, with Northern Ireland lacking dedicated greyhound welfare legislation present elsewhere on these islands.

Last week we heard how the emaciated body of a five-month-old puppy named Sam was found hanging from the blinds of an Antrim home, where he died in a desperate attempt to escape starvation and dehydration.

Though found guilty, his owner was given a slap on the wrist with a suspended sentence.

This week the remorseless perpetrator who tortured and burned Cody the border collie was released from prison after serving a 10-month sentence.

Andrew Stewart was the first person to be sentenced under Northern Ireland's animal cruelty legislation, but I don't believe the sentence reflected the severity of the crime.

The Green Party is a firm supporter of animal welfare and believes that society can be judged on how it treats animals. Indeed, there is a link between abuse of animals and violence against people.

In situations of domestic abuse, abusers may manipulate and control their human victims through threatened or actual violence against family pets.

I believe our legislation on animal cruelty is far from adequate, and the Green Party will continue to work to ensure that Cody's death was not in vain.

A register of animal cruelty perpetrators is needed, and I will continue to campaign for this.

We need better welfare legislation for greyhounds as well as stiffer penalties for anyone who causes cruelty and suffering towards animals.

Animal cruelty is a real issue for our constituents. More needs to be done to alleviate the suffering of animals closer to home.

Voting for politicians that aren't mired in the politics of the past and who take animal welfare seriously would be a good start.

Steven Agnew MLA is leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland

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