Leading Scottish animal welfare campaigns charity, OneKind, supports the increased penalties for animal welfare offences, proposed under new legislation announced today, and calls for new programmes to change offenders’ behaviour to be made available.
The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill proposes, amongst other improvements, an increase in the maximum prison sentences and fines available for animal welfare and wildlife crimes from 1 year to 5 years, and a removal of the current time bar for bringing prosecution.
OneKind Director, Bob Elliot, said:
‘’We are delighted to see that the new Bill proposes an increase in the maximum imprisonment time and fines available for animal welfare offenders at sentencing.
“It is very welcome that the Scottish Government is responding to the growing public view that animal welfare crimes are completely unacceptable and need to be taken very seriously. An increase in the maximum penalties will finally reflect this. At the same time, we are calling for greater investment in changing behaviour and attitudes to animals. Prison needs to be available, but it is not always the only answer.
‘’We also welcome the proposals to afford equal status to the welfare of wild and domestic animals, sending a message to the public, as well as the enforcement and judicial agencies, that the suffering of wild animals is just as serious as the suffering of domestic animals.’’
Another aspect of the Bill is the introduction of the so-called Finn’s Law, which will make it easier to convict people who attack service animals, such as police dogs. The Bill will remove the possibility of claiming self-defence, currently available under the 2006 Act, meaning that anyone convicted will be subject to the full range of the new increased penalties.
Commenting on the proposed removal of the provision that requires enforcement agencies to obtain a court order to remove an animal to protect its welfare, Bob said:
‘’Earlier this year OneKind, alongside other animal welfare charities, wrote to the Cabinet Secretary to stress the importance of this amendment. We expect this new power will be particularly important in cases where the animals’ value is commercial, rather than personal – especially in the seizure of puppies from dealers and puppy farmers. ‘’
As far as the scope of the Bill is concerned, Bob added:
‘’OneKind will support efforts to extend the protection of the 2006 Act and relevant wildlife legislation as far as possible. Two areas where we hope to see amendments are in the provision of diversionary programmes to foster empathy for animals in convicted offenders, and in widening the 2006 Act to cover crustaceans and cephalopods.”
OneKind also welcomes the extension of the time bar for bringing prosecutions. It can be difficult to gather evidence within a six-month period, particularly when witnesses are unwilling to come forward, as has happened in some wildlife cases. In its consultation response, OneKind highlighted a case where police officers were found to have erred in not reporting a cat killing to the Procurator Fiscal, but by the time this was determined, the time bar had elapsed and the case could not proceed.
Notes to editor
- OneKind is a Scottish animal welfare charity working to end cruelty to Scotland’s animals.
- The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill can be found here.