Leading animal protection charity OneKind has welcomed today’s (Thursday 5th September) commitment by the Scottish Government to animal welfare in the year ahead.
In the full programme for government 2017/18, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP pledged to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years’ imprisonment as well as a package of other measures including:
• A consultation on the introduction of compulsory video recording of slaughter at abattoirs in Scotland
• A communications campaign on the risks of buying puppies advertised on-line and rehoming dogs supplied from abroad
• Legislation for a modern system of registration and licensing of animal sanctuaries and rehoming activities
• Completion of the bill currently in process to end the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland
• New licensing requirements to protect the welfare of wild and domesticated animals used for public performance or display in other circumstances.
• Progressing Lord Bonomy’s recommendations to strengthen the law on foxhunting
• Progressing the recommendations of the review carried out by Professor Poustie on increased penalties for wildlife crime.
Of these measures, OneKind is particularly pleased to see the proposal to increase the maximum penalty for the most serious cruelty offences to five years’ imprisonment as well as allowing fixed penalty notices for lesser offences. This will bring Scotland in line with Northern Ireland and ahead of England and Wales in terms of sentencing powers available to the courts.
In a Scottish Government stakeholder consultation carried out in August 2016, OneKind strongly supported stronger sentencing powers.
However, OneKind also wants to see more effort put into developing community-based disposals, with supervision directed at changing the offending behaviour.
OneKind campaigner Sarah Moyes said:
“The point is not to put more people in prison but to make custodial sentences more meaningful when they are imposed. At present, court and custody rules mean that most sentences imposed are so short that they are meaningless.
“OneKind has repeatedly called for therapeutic, educational and anger management programmes, on a similar model to domestic violence initiatives, to make a positive difference and also address the known implications of animal abuse for the safety of humans.
“It is essential that the sanctions experienced by offenders actually reflect the seriousness of the offence and the public abhorrence of cruelty to animals.
“We were delighted that Professor Poustie accepted this argument when we gave evidence to his review of wildlife crime penalties, and we look to the Scottish Government to develop meaningful programmes that reflect the value of sentient animals, both wild and domesticated, and turn people away from hurting them.”
Another significant announcement is the proposal to regulate the use of animals in public performance and display. The legislation currently in process to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses has thrown the spotlight on the welfare issues such as bird of prey displays in shopping centres and animal handling parties, which often feature exotic animals.
OneKind has also been working with activists to campaign for the introduction of compulsory CCTV monitoring to Scotland’s 35 slaughterhouses. A petition hosted by OneKind has so far gathered almost 8,000 signatures, reflecting public concern about the way animals are treated at the end of their lives.
Sarah Moyes added:
“Following the announcement of a consultation on compulsory CCTV in England, we have been pressing for similar steps in Scotland. There have been too many revelations of poor welfare in slaughterhouses, and the difficulties experienced by official vets in overseeing the critical stages of stunning and bleeding, where animals are terribly vulnerable to suffering.”
While most of today’s measures are welcome, OneKind is disappointed to see that tighter controls of the use of electronic dog training collars are featured rather than a full ban.
“We will continue to work to persuade the Scottish Government that training dogs by using pain is both wrong and inefficient.”