We like to think of ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, but the RSPCA’s cruelty statistics often tell a very different story.
The North East, in particular, regularly vies for the unwanted tag of animal cruelty capital of the UK.
We can, however, take solace in the power of the courts to mete out suitable punishments to those who abuse animals.
It will come as a shock to many to find that the maximum jail sentence at the disposal of the courts is a paltry six months.
And even that sentence is rarely handed out.
According to statistics, the average prison term of someone convicted of animal cruelty in our country is just over three months. Not something to have your average abuser quaking in their boots.
We are, as campaigners are at pains to point out, tougher on those who dump litter than those who kick the life out of a puppy.
Which is why the call has gone out to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years.
There, of course, a sense of proportion required.
This is not a campaign aimed at jailing everyone who is cruel to animals, but one aimed at giving the courts bigger, and sharper, teeth.
Those who operate at the sickest end of the cruelty spectrum (like organisers of illegal dog fights) must be made the think twice about their activities.
The threat of a significant jail sentence would play a big part in curbing this and other cruel offences. It’s why we’re urging our politicians to back the campaign for a new five-year penalty.
The punishment must fit the crime, and at this moment the most heinous animal cruelty crimes have punishments that fall way too short.