Filming animal abuse and posting it on social media will now come with a tougher penalty, according to new guidelines from the Sentencing Council.
For the first time, the independent, non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice has told judges to hand out tougher sentences to people who post their animal cruelty offenses online. It is now considered an “aggravated” behavior under the Animal Welfare Act.
Under the act, if an offender causes life-threatening injuries and high levels of pain, they could receive five years in prison. But even if there is a small amount of harm, caused by “incompetent care” or a “brief lapse in judgment,” they could still face up to six months behind bars.
Kurt Zouma and animal cruelty
The updated sentencing guidance comes as French footballer Kurt Zouma faces animal cruelty charges. The RSPCA is prosecuting the West Ham player and his brother Yoan for dropping, kicking, slapping, and throwing shoes at a cat. They then posted the footage online.
Zouma has apologized for the incident. But to ensure their safety, the RSCPA removed the footballer’s cats. West Ham has issued Zouma with a fine of £250,000.
The footballer is also being investigated for the same crime in France. (The French Penal Code states that citizens can be prosecuted for crimes carried out abroad.)
In the UK, Zouma will reportedly face trial for animal abuse on May 24.
Other “aggravating” factors in animal cruelty cases include the presence of children and the element of professional responsibility. (This would apply to farmers, vets, and breeders, for example.)
Per the Telegraph, Judge Rosa Dean of the Sentencing Council said: “Animals are not able to defend themselves or draw attention to their suffering. It is important that courts have the powers to deliver appropriate sentences to offenders who commit these crimes.”