Scotland launches consultation on animal cruelty sentencing

Battersea welcomes move which could see prison sentences raised

The maximum penalty for the most serious offences could be raised from 12 months to five years.

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on proposals to increase sentencing for animal cruelty.

Proposed amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 would see the maximum penalty for the most serious offences raised from 12 months to five years, and a potential, unlimited fine. 

It is hoped the changes could apply to attacks against service animals, supporting the Finn’s Law initiative.

It is also hoped the changes would allow animals removed by animal welfare inspectors to be re-homed faster. This would mean that neglected or abused animals could be moved to new homes immediately, instead of being subject to lengthy stays in temporary accommodation.

Furthermore, the proposed amendments may enable authorities to issue fixed penalty notices, allowing animal welfare inspectors to better apply punishment for offences like missing documents. 

“Animal welfare is a subject that I feel very passionately about so I’m delighted to be launching this consultation today,” said rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon. 

“The Scottish Government is taking bold steps to try to further improve the welfare of our animals, and we believe the best way to do that is to challenge and change negative attitudes and behaviour. As such, I hope that strengthening these powers will send a strong message that such abhorrent behaviour will not be tolerated in a modern, progressive and responsible society such as Scotland.

“We want to have the highest standards of welfare for our animals, but before we introduce new legislation, it’s vital that we know what relevant stakeholders – particularly those with practical experience of animal cruelty issues.

Battersea’s director of communications Dee McIntosh welcomed the decision. 

“We’re particularly pleased it includes the prospect of raising prison sentences for the most horrific cases of animal cruelty to five years,” she said. “Animal abuse knows no boundaries but Battersea is cautiously optimistic that there’s the political will in Scotland now to get tough on abusers once and for all and make the punishment fit the crime.

“Research shows that the prospect of longer prison sentences can indeed act as a deterrent for any would-be offender, so we look forward to working with the Government to see tougher sentences become a reality.”