Councillors in Mid Ulster will throw their support behind a proposal to increase sentencing powers to protect the welfare of animals in this area.
The issue was raised at the council’s Environment Committee in Magherafelt when councillors were asked for their views on a review of the Welfare of Animals Act carried out following a number of cases of extreme animal cruelty.
The public is very aware about how animals are being treated. But a lot of it is hidden. It is good that we do respond to it and continually work at this (issue). Sentencing should be increased - Cllr McFlynn
One of the key concerns brought to light within the report was the belief that sentences should, in general, be increased.
Councillor Christine McFlynn, Chairperson of the Mid Ulster Environment Committee, said, “The public is very aware about how animals are being treated. But a lot of it is hidden. It is good that we do respond to it and continually work at this (issue). Sentencing should be increased.”
Within the review it is noted that DARD is considering increasing the maximum sentence on conviction of the more serious summary offences from six months to twelve months imprisonment as well as increasing the fine from £5,000 to £20,000.
In the case of indictable offences considers increasing the maximum prison term from two years to five years.
Councillor Frances Burton agreed with increasing the sentencing powers, but asked if they could be extended even further.
“One of the questions that I would like to ask is if this is enough?” she asked. “Is this as far as we can go with this?
“When it comes to abandoned animals that are left with no food, in an area where they have no shelter, and there are carcasses in that area - all the general public think the council should be there.
“The last time we had to deal with this it actually was quite difficult to get those who were supposed to do their bit. Do you think this is the strongest that you can feed back?”
Councillor Walter Cuddy also spoke of his shock - and that of constituents - at the cruelty that was shown in a news documentary which uncovered a puppy farm in the Clogher Valley in recent weeks.