Sentencing pledge after death of dog

AGRICULTURE Minister Michelle O’Neill is to press for more use of tough animal cruelty sentences after the recent death of Cody the dog from Maghaberry.

Speaking yesterday, the minister said the Animals Act 2011 significantly increased the maximum penalties for animal welfare offences from three months’ imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine to two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The courts can also disqualify any person convicted of an animal welfare offence from keeping an animal.

Responding to a motion in the Assembly requesting the full use of the new extended sentences, Ms O’Neill said: “I am totally committed to protecting and safeguarding animal welfare. I believe that the new tough penalties introduced by the 2011 Act will be a strong deterrent to thugs who would carry out such barbaric welfare abuses as the recent Cody case.

“I support the full use of the extended sentences available for serious animal welfare offences to include longer periods of imprisonment to ensure that perpetrators receive a punishment that fits the crime.

“I intend to meet the Minister of Justice to ensure that the courts are encouraged to make full use of the range of penalties available for animal welfare offences and in horrific cases like the Cody case to apply the maximum penalties possible.”