DORSET Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has called for a crackdown on animal cruelty.

The commissioner believes that criminal sanctions for animal cruelty in England and Wales are at present “extremely lenient” and “totally inadequate.”

He referenced a recent report which found that more than 92 per cent of offenders who committed acts of violence against pets over the last ten year managed to avoid prison and said that Britain is “far laxer” than other countries on the matter.

He backed calls of various animal charities, including the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, to increase the maximum custodial sentence for animal abuse, which is currently six months.

Mr Underhill also said that authorities must consider the impact of allowing offenders to slip through the net, adding that animal cruelty often precedes further abusive behaviour.

He said: “Researchers have found that perpetrators’ first target is often an animal living in the home, the second a spouse or child. Disturbingly, offenders often threaten to torture, injure or kill the victim’s pets as a mechanism through which to emotionally control and coerce human victims.

"We need to become more attune to this abuse as a warning sign in order to more effectively protect people. Animal abuse exposes a certain deliberateness of violence. Unlike crimes against people, perpetrators can rarely claim to have been provoked, to have ‘lost control’ or fallen foul to passion.”

Mr Underhill believes that the creation of animal cruelty registers, similar to the sex offenders register, to monitor the worst abusers could be beneficial for police when trying to protect people at risk of harm, as the intelligence would help them when attempting to identify perpetrators of domestic violence.

The commissioner declared his support for the government’s pledge to review the maximum sentence for animal abuse.

He added: “But this review must go further and treat the relationship between animal abuse and domestic abuse with paramount importance.”