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Animal protection regime to be strengthened in new bill

2 October 2019

A bill to strengthen animal cruelty penalties and improve powers for frontline enforcement agencies has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill will increase the maximum penalties for the most serious animal welfare and wildlife offences to five years' imprisonment, and increase the maximum penalties for various other offences. It will also allow ministers to prescribe offences that can be the subject of fixed penalties, in relation to both animal welfare and animal health.

It will implement "Finn’s law", named after police dog Finn, giving extra protection to service animals, and provide a process to allow animals that have been taken into possession on welfare grounds to be sold or rehomed quickly without the need for a court order, subject to the possibility of compensation.

It follows a public consultation earlier this year.

Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon commented: “We want to continue to have the highest standards of welfare for our animals and to have the most robust and proportionate penalties available.

“Through increasing the maximum penalties available for the most serious animal welfare and wildlife offences, we are ensuring that those who carry out these heinous acts will rightly face the full force of the law, as and where appropriate.

“We also want to see more protection given to service animals such as police dogs and horses, so we will be enacting what has become known as Finn’s law. I believe it is only right that animals which work to keep us safe should be given the fullest protection we can give them in return."

Kirsteen Campbell, chief executive of the Scottish SPCA, added: “These exciting changes have the potential to be transformational for animals across the country and the Scottish SPCA.

“The power to rehome animals without a court order would be of massive benefit to their welfare. All receive incredible care from our expert teams, but this is no substitute for a loving home.

“Prosecution is a last resort for the Society, but we have long felt the penalties for animal cruelty are too lenient and inconsistent. We hope increasing the options available to sheriffs will lead to fewer people mistreating animals in the first place.”

Click here to access the bill and related papers.

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