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Scottish SPCA outlines support for reform of animal welfare law

Scottish SPCA outlines support for reform of animal welfare law

The Scottish SPCA has revealed many animals caught up in court proceedings spend months waiting to be rehomed as it outlines its support for the Scottish Government’s proposals to amend animal welfare legislation.

We have highlighted the cost and impact on animal welfare incurred under the legal parameters of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

We fully endorse proposals to allow animal sanctuaries to rehome rescued animals much more quickly and to increase the maximum possible sentence for the worst cruelty offences from 12 months to five years.

At present, animals cannot be rehomed until any criminal proceedings involving them conclude if they have not been relinquished by their owner. In 2016 we cared for 173 animals involved in court cases, whilst this figure jumped to 296 in 2017 and was 224 in 2018.

Our estimated spend is over £1.5m since 2016 caring for animals involved in court proceedings. We seized a cocker spaniel named Florence in January 2013 and the court case did not conclude until September 2017. Florence could not be rehomed during this time and it cost us over £22,000 to care for her.

Court cases typically take months or even years to conclude and since 2016, dogs involved in court proceedings have spent an average of 231 days in our care. For cats, the figure is 96 days whilst for equines its 171 days.

Chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “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 costs the Society an average of £15 per dog per day in our care, excluding veterinary fees. When you consider hundreds of dogs are spending hundreds of days in our care, it is evident it costs us hundreds of thousands of pounds per year to care for them.

“Under the new proposals, we would be able to rehome these dogs and other animals within weeks. This would alleviate pressure on the Society financially and on our rescue and rehoming centres by freeing up space more quickly.”

Our successes in tackling the illegal puppy trade have also been a big cost driver. In January 2016, inspectors seized 45 dogs from a puppy farm run by Christopher Gorman. Until the case concluded in October 2017, we spent £440,000 housing and providing veterinary treatment for the surviving dogs. Gorman received a £500 fine and a lifetime ban on owning animals.

Mike added: “Our work at the forefront of the multiagency operation to disrupt the barbaric puppy farming industry alongside has been outstanding, but has come with a considerable cost implication. On farms, puppies are often bred in appalling conditions and this leads to health implications and, in the worst cases, death. These larger investigations require more resources and typically take longer to appear in court.”

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to implement the outcomes from this consultation for the benefit of animals across the country.”

The consultation closes on April 26. People can take part here.