Proper and empathic policing of animal abuse by Cumbria police
Dear Sir, We the petitioners are not satisfied that Cumbria police did all they could to investigate Steven Holmes, who by his own admission, held a wild animal captive for the purpose of baiting him/her with his terriers. Holmes freely posted evidence of his intentions on Face Book, together with his name, his car, his photograph and the region in which he lives. He advertised he had fox baiting terrier pups for sale, which he was planning to introduce to a captured fox he was keeping in a cage to see how they reacted. The fox was taken from the wild for the purpose of fighting with Mr Holmes’ dogs. Many people reported this man to the Cumbria police and several people described the police as uninterested and less than helpful, and on one occasion rude. A statement from Cumbria police several days later said that the matter had been dealt with, and there was no evidence of any crime. (The police did not attend for at least 24 hours after being notified, which meant there was ample time to get rid of the fox and any evidence of wrongdoing.) Holmes was advised by the police to take care what he posted on social media in the future, and he was apparently remorseful. If Holmes' only regret is that he posted his intentions and upset so many, as opposed to regretting the animal's suffering, that is no regret at all, and the statement from the police has not in any way reassured people that justice has been done. In fact, it seems that the police have not addressed the cruelty issue, and have just advised this man to keep quiet about his intentions in the future. We have the greatest respect for our police who do a difficult job with limited resources. However, the police do not appear to rate animal cruelty as worthy of proper investigation. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 gives "protected animal" status to any animal which is held captive in the way Holmes did. This status means that Holmes would appear to have committed a number of cruelty offences under the AWA, including causing unnecessary suffering and keeping a protected animal for fighting. The police provided no indication that they had followed up on the welfare of the fox in the cage, and the report they issued has left more questions unanswered than answered. Despite baiting animals being illegal, cruelty like this is on the rise in the UK. Face Book is littered with people who brag about their dogs fighting with wildlife. The police may not have wildlife crime high on their agenda but they cannot decide to ignore the law on this subject altogether. This small red cousin of our own dogs was harming no one and was no threat to any livestock. A fox expert who saw the pictures has described the body language of the fox in the photo as ‘all fear’. This is not in any way acceptable and we must have reassurance from Cumbria police that ALL matters concerning animal cruelty will be dealt with swiftly and thoroughly in the future. Mr Holmes should be re-interviewed in connection with AWA offences, and if appropriate, the papers sent to the CPS.