Lisburn Councillor and Ulster Unionist Assembly election candidate, Robbie Butler, has demanded tough new laws which would “throw the legal book at anyone convicted of animal cruelty”.
Mr Butler issued his appeal as the Ulster Unionist Party published the sixth in a series of policy papers which focuses on the issue of animal welfare.
He said the key proposals in the document, which he fully supported, are: the creation of a central register of people convicted of animal cruelty; tightening the online advertising and sale of pets; making an attack on a guide dog or assistance dog an aggravated offence; the introduction of a new regulatory framework for greyhound racing in Northern Ireland; improving the welfare of animals slaughtered for meat, including pre-stunning and the installation of CCTV in slaughterhouses; a review of the effectiveness of dog breed specific legislation.
As recently as last month, another pet suffered unimaginable cruelty in the Lagan Valley area.
Tiger, an 18 month old long haired Tabby, was treated at a local veterinary clinic for burns after it was discovered he had been set on fire.
At the time of the incident Chief Inspector Derek McCamley said: “This is utterly disgusting. It is hard to understand why someone would do this to a defenceless vulnerable family pet. We are a nation of animal lovers.
“We lavish love and affection on our pets like they are members of our family. We don’t want another animal lover to feel the distress that Tiger’s owners are feeling at this time.
Speaking after the publication of the UUP policy paper this week, Mr Butler said: “Lagan Valley is a region of animal lovers and in Northern Ireland almost half of all local households share their homes with at least one pet.
“It has been said that the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. As a society Northern Ireland does well, but it could still do better.
“While we already have animal welfare protections enshrined in law, unfortunately the implementation of these have been feeble. Over recent years, too many people have been responsible for unthinkable acts of cruelty to animals and have got away with it.
“That needs to change. We want to see more people successfully prosecuted, with stronger punishments to include custodial sentences.
“The wide-ranging proposals contained in our latest UUP policy paper would significantly improve the welfare of animals across Lagan Valley specifically and across Northern Ireland in general.”