Proposed increases in penalties for cruelty to animals are not enough and the maximum punishment should be raised to five years in jail, animal rights activists have said. They also said abandonment of pets should be treated as cruelty in the new Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill. The campaigners were speaking yesterday during a bills committee discussion of the proposed law, which doubles the maximum penalty from six months to a year's jail and raises the maximum fine from $5,000 to $100,000. The government said the fine increases were enough and abandonment was dealt with by other laws. Animal Earth spokeswoman Carmen Chan Wai-man said the problem of animal cruelty was very serious in Hong Kong and a more severe punishment was needed. 'Our volunteers deal with animal torture cases almost every week,' she said. 'Recent cases of cats being tortured and even dissected show there is a need for harsher punishment to tell the public that inflicting cruelty on animals is a serious offence.' She said the organisation carried out an online survey of about 4,400 people last month, half of whom thought a maximum penalty of five years' jail was appropriate. The executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said abandoning animals should also be regarded as a form of animal cruelty because pets would feel pain or cold on the streets. Deputy director of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department Cheuk Wing-hing said the proposed fine increase was sufficient to raise public awareness about the offence. 'The jump from a HK$5,000 to HK$100,000 fine is already 20 times and a very large-scale increase,' he said. 'The government believes the most effective way to stop animal cruelty is to impose a harsher fine and strengthen civic education.' The bill also proposes raising the fine for animal neglect from HK$2,000 to HK$25,000.