Cumbria crackdown on animal abusers could prevent cases of rape and murder
CUMBRIA’S success in sending animal abusers to prison could be helping prevent serious crime including rape and murder.
Animal abusers are more likely to face prison sentences in Cumbria, a new report has found. The county is the nation’s leader in sending abusers to prison as, nationally, 92 per cent avoid prison.
The report highlights regional variation among the proportion of animal cruelty cases resulting in a prison sentence, from 28.1 per cent in Cumbria to just 1.4 per cent in Surrey. It comes as a warning is issued over those who harm animals going on to commit a huge number of other offences, including murder.
Peter Cuthbertson, director of the Centre for Crime Prevention which compiled the report, said: "Animal lovers will be horrified to learn that animal cruelty is one of the many offences treated extremely leniently by our courts.
"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."
In the 10 years leading up to the end of 2015, 13,835 offences, including murder and rape, were committed by those with a previous conviction or caution for animal cruelty. Serious penalties were, however, found to be extremely rare, with 24 per cent punished with fines, which have fallen from an average of £479 in 2005 to just £296 in 2016.
RSPCA interim chief executive Michael Ward said: "While the RSPCA is seeing unbelievably shocking and distressing cases go before the courts, only a tiny proportion of animal abusers actually receive an immediate custodial sentence.
"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."
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.