Greater protections to the welfare of animals in Scotland have been supported in a report issued by Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.

Whilst considering the Bill, the Committee raised concerns about the lack of a central registration system to facilitate information sharing between authorities and agencies in relation, for example, to previous convictions.

Key provisions within the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill are:

• The increase of maximum penalties for animal welfare and wildlife crime offences to five years in prison
• The creation of fixed penalty notices for minor offences
• Removal of the requirement for court orders for rehoming animals.
• Increased protection for service animals (Finn’s Law) through the removal of the defence of self-defence.

Speaking as the report was launched, Committee Convener, Gillian Martin MSP, said: “We have explored the proposed penalties along with the powers given to those authorised to take animals into possession on welfare grounds. The Bill was widely welcomed but we believed more could be done.

“We recognise the tight focus of the Bill but we’re also in no doubt that it goes a long way to improving animal and wildlife protections in Scotland. When implemented, there should be greater co-operation, greater resourcing and greater awareness of the issues involved. The health and welfare of our animals and wildlife will be significantly improved.”

Additional recommendations made within the report include:
• That the options for enhanced detection and prosecution by expanding the powers of the SSPCA be explored
• That impact statements should be used as a matter of standard practise
• That the Scottish Government works with the Crown Office to provide more clarity and guidance about vicarious liability

More information about the Bill can be found here