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UK MP calls for tougher animal cruelty sentences after rescuing mistreated dog

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By Sophie Morris and Richard Wheeler, PA Political Staff

A mistreated dog found abandoned by a road has inspired an MP to call for tougher sentences for people who commit animal cruelty offences.

Conservative Chris Loder (West Dorset) found a springer spaniel dumped at the roadside with cuts on her legs during a storm in his constituency last January, and ensured she received emergency veterinary treatment.

The dog is now a treasured family pet and her story has prompted him to call for the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to be increased 10-fold, from six months in prison to five years.

Introducing his Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill in the Commons, Mr Loder told MPs: “I have decided to sponsor this important Bill, inspired by the story of my own dog, a four-year-old springer spaniel who I’ve named Poppy.

“Poppy was abandoned on a stormy night in January last year. She had been dumped at the top of a hill, miles from the nearest town or village, and it was at the roadside on that hilltop lane in my constituency that I found her whilst driving home.

“Poppy was in a bad state when I found her. She had clearly been mistreated: her pads were red raw, there were cuts to her leg, she had nasty growths and she needed three teeth removed – and evidence suggested that shortly before I found her she had given birth to a litter of puppies.

“My dad, being someone who has taken care of animals on our farm for his whole life, took her for the emergency veterinary care that she needed before bringing her home to live with my mum and dad on our farm.

“She now enjoys a wonderful new life as a member of the Loder family, enjoying the green and pleasant land of my home in West Dorset.

“This Bill amends the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which currently sets out a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or unlimited fine for the most serious prevention of harm offences.”

Mr Loder called the current maximum sentence a “gross injustice”.

He added: “A mere six months discourages no one, so we must establish in the law of England and Wales a much tougher maximum penalty.

“By increasing the penalty 10-fold, we hope to suitably discourage the shocking behaviour that leads to the neglect and cruelty of animals.”

Conservative Neil Parish, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said: “The current penalties for animal welfare offences are feeble, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, sentences for animal cruelty are woefully low.

“How it is right that a person in this country can maim, torture and murder a pet and only receive a maximum sentence of six months?

“Too often those charged with the most violent animal welfare offences do not even receive a custodial sentence.”