The Scottish SPCA has welcomed the overhaul of animal welfare law announced by the Scottish Government after years of discussions with MSPs and government officials by Scotland’s animal welfare charity.
In announcements made in the Programme for Government on 3 September, changes to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 include increasing the maximum penalties for the most serious animal welfare offences to five years (from 12 months at present), imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. There will also be changes to the maximum penalties for various wildlife offences and powers to make regulations for fixed penalty notices.
There will be much needed increased protection for service animals by implementing ‘Finn’s Law’, a bill already in force in England and Wales.
A new process will be introduced to allow animals that have been taken into possession on welfare grounds to be rehomed without the need for a civil court order. This will put an end to the animals caught up in court proceedings spending months waiting to be rehomed. Since 2016, the Society’s spend on caring for animals involved in court proceedings exceeds £1.5m. In one puppy farming case, the Scottish SPCA spent £440,000 caring for the dogs involved whilst they waited on court proceedings to conclude.
The Scottish Government plans to bring forward introducing CCTV in abattoirs before it becomes mandatory, to make sure slaughter is carried out safely and humanely.
There will also be work to ensure a modern licensing system for dog, cat and rabbit breeders, pet sellers and animal sanctuaries and rehoming services. Using this new licensing system will prevent the sale of puppies and kittens under six months old by anyone other than the breeder – known as ‘Lucy’s Law’. This welcome reform will stop the proliferation in third party sales.
Scottish SPCA chief executive, Kirsteen Campbell, said, “For years, we have worked hard to reform animal welfare legislation with MSPs and government officials. As the only charity in the country which can investigate animal cruelty, we are better placed than anyone to see the issues with current legislation.
“Credit must go to the Scottish Government for identifying the need for reform, taking on board both the invaluable expertise of the Scottish SPCA and our partners and the overwhelming public support for this and acting on it.
“We look forward to working with the government to realise these proposals."
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, said, “The positives this will bring to animal welfare in Scotland are genuinely transformational. From the thousands of court cases we’ve been involved in, it’s evident sentencing is wildly inconsistent. A number of Sheriffs have recently stated that they thought their current powers were inadequate. It’s clear that the courts would benefit from the ability to hand down lengthier custodial sentences to protect animals and deter other people from acts of mistreatment.
“The introduction of Fixed Penalty Notices should free up more time for inspectors in both the Scottish SPCA and local authorities to focus on the most serious cases of animal mistreatment.
“These reforms will prove to be transformational to the Scottish SPCA. All animals receive an incredible amount of love, attention and care from our dedicated staff, but spending hundreds of days in a rescue centre is not beneficial to the welfare of an animal and it is no substitute for a loving home and family.
“It will also alleviate the financial pressure of caring for animals for months or even years whilst criminal proceedings conclude and reduce the strain on our rescue and rehoming centres by freeing up space more quickly.
“On average, it costs the Scottish SPCA £15 per dog per day in our care, so holding dogs that cannot be rehomed after a very short period puts a massive strain on our resources and means kennel spaces are unavailable for dogs which could perhaps be rehomed more quickly. For a charity reliant entirely on the generosity of the public, this is a real challenge.”
The Government reaffirmed their support to stamp out the barbaric puppy farming trade through the #BuyAPuppySafely campaign following its successes since launching last year. The campaign was supported by our own #SayNoToPuppyDealers campaign which has been backed by over 50 MSPs and almost 9,000 members of the Scottish public.