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Peters Seeks Harsher Penalties For Animal Abuse

25 August 2004

Peters Seeks Harsher Penalties For Animal Abuse Cases

New Zealand First leader Rt Hon Winston Peters has called for an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act to ensure harsher sentencing levels for cases involving the gross mistreatment of animals.

Speaking today at an SPCA Companion Animal Workshop in Rotorua, Mr Peters said that while the 1999 Animal Welfare Act allowed for fines of up to $50,000 and/or sentences of up to three years jail for acts of wilful cruelty, these sentences were rarely handed out.

Mr Peters suggested that the Animal Welfare Act be amended to give greater legal status to animals by: Including similar provisions to the 2002 Sentencing Act to ensure that those found guilty of animal cruelty were given the maximum sentence relevant to the harm they caused. Prescribing that in sentencing or otherwise dealing with an offender, the court took into account the gravity of the offending in the particular case, including the degree of culpability of the offender.

“If an animal dies or must be put down as a result of the offender’s rage, negligence or deliberate mistreatment, that person deserves to face a sentence at or near the maximum range,” Mr Peters said.

“Animal cruelty cases are serious, and people who engage in acts of animal cruelty could be just as capable of doing the same to humans. Studies in Australia and the United States have shown that people who were cruel to animals were also likely to commit sexual and physical assault, arson, vandalism and theft.

“The issue that needs to be examined is not so much the species of the victim as the cruelty of the act committed.

“Cruelty is cruelty, and it is always wrong,” Mr Peters concluded.


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