'They get more for stealing a computer': MPs call for longer sentences for animal cruelty

. Credit: RSPCA

WARNING: Some people may find some of the images in this report distressing

People convicted of animal cruelty should face prison sentences of up to five years, instead of the current maximum of six months, MPs have said.

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Conservative MP Neil Parish, who is the chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said the current punishments for animal welfare offences in England were "far too low".

During a debate on the subject in the House of Commons, Mr Parish highlighted the nationwide problem of people armed with air rifles taking potshots at dogs and cats, often leaving them seriously injured or dead.

English bull terrier Skitz had to be put down due to the extent of his skin condition due to neglect Credit: RSPCA

He proposed lessons for children in how to look after their pets.

"I think we need to get much more into schools and much more into our education system to make sure that people know how to look after an animal," he said.

"Most people do know how to look after animals, but unfortunately there are some families where there is cruelty going on, and perhaps those children don't know anything else other than what's happening in that home.

"I think that's what we have really got to try and tackle as well."

Labour MP Anna Turley backed the call for tougher sentences, after an online petition she began at the end of last year reached more than 28,000 signatures.

Rescued Maggie May had to have a leg amputated after being stabbed with a screwdriver Credit: RSPCA

Speaking to the Commons, she highlighted two cases in her Redcar constituency.

In one, two men - Richard Finch, 60, and Michael Heathcock, 59 - were jailed for four months for burying alive a terrier called Scamp after hammering a nail through his head in a botched attempt at euthananisa.

And in March last year, brothers Andrew and Daniel Frankish walked free from court, having been handed a 21-week suspended prison sentence and a six-month curfew for the horrific abuse of their pet bulldog, Baby.

They repeatedly threw her down the stairs, stamped on her head, and swung her around, as well as headbutting her.

They filmed the attack and were seen and heard laughing on the footage. Baby’s injuries were so severe that she was put down three months later.

Baby the bulldog was filmed being stamped on and thrown down the stairs by its owners in North Yorkshire Credit: RSPCA

"We'll probably never know the full level of cruelty and torture these silent and defenceless animals endured," Ms Turley told the Commons.

"We cannot undo the suffering that was done to them, but we can show each other that this kind of cruelty has no place in our communities."

The SNP's Patricia Gibson (for North Ayrshire and Arran) agreed, and warned that people who abused animals often went on to commit acts of violence against other people.

Responding to the calls, Environment Minister George Eustice said current sentencing practice "does not suggest that the courts are finding sentencing powers inadequate".

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