Scotland clamps down on animal abusers

Scotland clamps down on animal abusers as maximum sentences for animal cruelty is raised to five years.

Leading animal welfare charity Battersea has praised the Scottish Government and MSPs from across Parliament for delivering on their promise to increase maximum sentences for the worst animal cruelty offences.

The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) Scotland Bill first introduced on October last year, passed its third and final reading yesterday evening (17 June).

For Battersea, this saw the culmination of many years of campaigning to raise Scotland’s maximum sentences to five years, in line with many other countries in Europe. The charity first launched its campaign to increase maximum sentencing in Scotland in 2017 and have been encouraged by the Scottish Government’s commitment to this change in law.

The Bill will raise the maximum sentence for animal cruelty in Scotland from 12 months to five years and will become the law after it receives Royal Assent.

Research published by Battersea in 2017 showed that the maximum sentence of 12 months for animal cruelty was among the lowest across the whole of Europe – with only five other countries having lower sentences (including England and Wales). Both fly tipping and theft carried higher sentences.

Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton CBE, said: “We’re thrilled to see this Bill make such quick progress. The Scottish Government has sent out a clear message that Scotland will not tolerate the most heinous animal cruelty crimes and will respond accordingly. This change in law will protect innocent animals and act as a proper deterrent to those who abuse and mistreat animals.

“We have been campaigning for this change for a very long time alongside Scottish SPCA, other rescue organisations and many thousands of Scots who have written to their MSPs and called for this on social media. This change would not have happened without everyone’s support. Now we desperately need England and Wales to follow in the Scots’ footsteps.”

In England and Wales, where the maximum punishment is the lowest in Europe at just six months, the Westminster Bill has been postponed yet again; despite the Government first pledging its support almost three years ago.

Battersea has been calling on the Government in England and Wales to follow Scotland’s example and progress this much-needed legislation. The Bill has been published twice before but fell during the prorogation of Parliament in October 2019, and a second time when a general election was called in December. A Private Member’s Bill brought in by Chris Loder MP is currently seeking to introduce these measures, but earlier this week it was delayed until 23 October, five months after its original date for discussion in Westminster.

For more information visit Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in Scotland, can be found here.