DUP deputy Leader and Peer Nigel Dodds has called for stronger policies to combat animal cruelty offenders. Speaking in the House of Lords he welcomed legislation bringing England and Wales into line with Northern Ireland on prison sentences.
He called for the introduction of an animal welfare offenders register.
He also called for increased funding for animal welfare services, and much greater UK wide co-operation including a national charter.
Lord Dodds said:
"I fully support the long overdue step of bringing maximum penalties for animal cruelty offences in England and Wales into line with those already set elsewhere.
In Northern Ireland, I am pleased to say that the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences has been 5 years since around 2016. The Scottish Parliament has also passed a legislation which raises the maximum sentence to 5 years. It means the UK as a whole will have some of the toughest laws anywhere in the area.
It is absolutely imperative that animals in our society are cared for, that those who abuse animals are appropriately punished, and that those with a legal responsibility for animal care have the support and resources they need.
Recent reports from the RSPCA suggest that cruelty cases have risen during the pandemic so this legislation is not only timely but hugely important.
As a result of this legislation the UK will have one of the toughest sentencing regimes against animal cruelty in the world. But our ambitions should not end with the passage of this legislation. There is much more that we can do to prevent, to deter, to detect and to prosecute crime against animals.
I am delighted that colleagues in the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland are working at pace to bring forward legislation introduced Finns law into Northern Ireland to afford greater protection to service animals have been injured in the course of their duty.
As well as increased increased funding for local animal welfare services we should consider the establishment of a register of animal cruelty offenders to avoid repeat harm and take a preventative approach to wrongdoing. I’m aware that the creation of such a register is very complex and would require data protection, human rights and costs issues to be overcome but we shouldn’t shirk the responsibility to exhaust all avenues to make progress. This could be limited to banned offenders with appropriate and limited access to relevant agencies.
There needs to be a socio-economic and educational approach to tackling animal cruelty. We need to continue raise awareness and educate people about responsible ownership and the value of animals. This will go a long way to root out the causes of these evil crimes of animal cruelty.
There is also room for greater UK wide cooperation on efforts to tackle cruelty and and it may be possible for a national charter to ensure a joined up and cohesive approach to initiatives been taken forward in each of our countries."