Examination of Witnesses

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:31 am on 23rd July 2019.

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Claire Horton:

I think it is a partnership. We work very closely with the Government in other areas. Certainly, as an animal welfare sector, all the agencies work closely together. We all know each other well and share common ground when it comes to issues such as this. Certainly, we are able to join with the Government to share messaging—it does not matter what sort; we will happily do it.

There is a multitude of messages that we are trying to get out to people. One is how to make wise choices and decisions about the purchase of puppies, because puppy farming and illegal puppy smuggling and dog breeding are always huge issues. How do we make people much more aware of responsible ownership? How do we stop animals getting out and worrying livestock? How do we make people think differently about all manner of things? There is always a danger that messages can get mixed up—that they get muddled and ultimately people become blind to awareness messages that are constantly hitting them. It is about thinking carefully about the nature of the message, how it is put out to the population and what methodology or channel is used, which is quite important.

Earlier, I mentioned copycat behaviour, which worries me a lot, because of the issue of promoting responsible ownership as it relates to animal cruelty and not being cruel to animals. Inevitably, in those messages, we will be giving examples of animal cruelty and there will always be people who pick those messages up in the wrong way and go and do it. None the less, that does not stop us needing to be clear about this.

Ultimately, the biggest deterrents will be a much harsher sentence, a much more serious punishment and naming and shaming. One of the interesting things about the internet and some of the cases we have heard about is that when those perpetrators’ identities become public, life can get difficult for those people simply because of the public reaction. I make no comment on that, other than that it can clearly work in different ways when people or the issue are exposed.