New legislation will transform the lives of rescue animals caught up in legal proceedings.

Previously, animals which were seized on welfare grounds without their owners signing them over would have to be kept in a rescue centre until any legal proceedings, such as a civil case or criminal case, concluded. Keeping animals under such circumstances is known as providing ‘temporary refuge’. These court proceedings can often take months or even years to be resolved.

In 2020, temporary refuge dogs spent an average of 203 days living in a kennel environment. On average, we provide care and accommodation for approximately 1,500 temporary refuge animals each year, at an estimated cost of over £500,000 per annum. Caring for temporary refuge animals has had an impact on our ability to help other animals as we simply don't have the space and we are at capacity.

Now, we will be able to rehome animals caught up in such circumstances after just three weeks. Through the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020, a new section has been inserted into the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. This section gives authorised persons such as Scottish SPCA inspectors, the police or individuals appointed by local authorities the power to rehome animals which have not been signed over by their owner without the need to get a civil order.

There are processes in place to ensure the animal's owner is informed at the point of seizure and an appeal process exists.

Under the new legislation, an agency which moves animals on then subsequently loses any legal proceedings would be liable for compensation to the owner for the loss of their animals.

We are so pleased to see these changes finally coming in to effect, as we have campaigned for them for a long time. Although our dedicated animal care teams provide first-class rehabilitation and support, a rescue centre is no substitute for a loving home and animals can deteriorate when held in such conditions for a prolonged period of time. We know that this legislation will improve the lives of tens of thousands of rescue animals in the years to come.

Watch a short video on the new legislation here:


Meet some of the animals who would have benefited from Scotland’s new legislation


Paloma the horse

Paloma was seized by a Scottish SPCA inspector because she was in terrible condition. She had overgrown feet and was covered in sores because her body was riddled with lice. Worst of all, she was pregnant whilst in this state.

Under our care, Paloma gave birth to baby Beau. They were both healthy and living the best life they could in their stable and field, but they had to wait over 500 days to be rehomed because they were part of a court case.

Thankfully, they were both rehomed and are now happily settled with their new owner.

Darcy the dog

Darcy was removed from a puppy farm with 44 other dogs. She was pregnant and one of her pups didn’t survive. The case took the best part of two years to conclude, leaving us with a bill of over £440,000 to care for all of the dogs.

It was worth it in the end for Darcy. She is now in a wonderful home and is a therapet.

Maple and Pancake the cats

Maple and Pancake were abandoned alongside several other animals at a property. No food or water was left for them. Their owner refused to sign them over to us, even though they had shown no regard for their welfare.

Over 450 days later, the court case concluded and we were given permission to rehome Maple and Pancake. They are now living happy, healthy lives in a new home.