Life can be better for animals in Scotland.
For several years, we've been campaigning to make it easier to rehome rescue animals, to make the punishments for the worst animal cruelty offences more severe. In fact, there's lots of changes we think could be made to legislation in Scotland to build a better country for animals.
We have a rich history of campaigning for improvement to animal welfare legislation since we were founded way back in 1839. Why? Because we feel we can always do more for animals.
No other body in Scotland is better placed than us to spot issues with the law and work to have those addressed. Through reporting abusers for prosecution, providing long-term rehabilitation for animals and engaging with hundreds of thousands of Scots each year, we have an unrivalled understanding of the animal welfare landscape. We’ve successfully campaigned for reform of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.
What do we want to change and why?
We've long campaigned to increase the maximum sentence available to the courts for the worst animal cruelty offences from 12 months to five years. Prosecution is always a last resort for us and we pride ourselves on taking every possible step to give people a chance to address welfare issues. But when we’re left with no choice but to take action, we’ve found the sentences handed out to be wildly inconsistent.
We also want to be in a position to rehome animals more quickly. Under Scots law, animals seized on welfare grounds cannot be rehomed until any criminal case their owner is involved in concludes. This means they may spend months or even years in one of our animal rescue and rehoming centres, unable to get that second chance.
Why do we want to change it?
When it comes to sentencing, it has to act as a deterrent. People who horribly mistreat animals or use them for profit at the expense of welfare must be punished in a way that fits the crime and sends out a message to others that it’s unacceptable. And we know the Scottish public agree with us too. We always get feedback from supporters and concerned members of the public when they feel the punishment does not fit the crime. Combined with bans and unlimited fines, increased sentencing would also give the Sheriffs a wider range of options for sentencing.
Being able to rehome animals quickly is even more important to the Scottish SPCA. Whilst all animals get amazing love and attention at our centres, it’s no long-term substitute for a proper home. If the law changed, we’d be able to rehome these animals within weeks or a few months. This would allow us to help more animals by freeing up space in our centres too.
As well as the welfare benefit, reform would bring a big cost saving too. Since 2016, we’ve spent over £2.1m giving refuge to animals involved in legal proceedings. If the law changes, we’ll make a massive cost saving – which is so important when this is being entirely funded by our generous supporters.
Where are we now?
The Bill has been given royal assent. Some of the items included it are now law, such as harsher sentences. Some other aspects of the law, such as the ability to rehome animals caught up in court cases more quickly, are due to come into effect soon.