Increased animal cruelty penalties and new legal protections for service animals to be introduced.
MSPs have supported increased penalties for the worst types of animal cruelty and ‘Finn’s law’, which gives new legal protections for service animals such as police dogs and horses.
The Animals and Wildlife Bill will increase the maximum penalty for the most serious animal and wildlife crimes to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine, after passing its final stage in Parliament.
And Finn’s law removes a legal defence of self-defence for attacks on service animals in the course of their duties.
Animal welfare enforcement agencies will also be given innovative new powers, allowing animals taken into their care to be quickly rehomed without the need for a court order.
Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said:
“This Bill is an important milestone in Scotland’s long tradition of protecting our animals and wildlife.
“The increased maximum available penalties reflect the seriousness of some of the very cruel crimes seen against domestic and wild animals - although these cases are thankfully rare.
“Finn’s law, named after a Police dog brutally injured in the course of its duties, recognises the important role service animals play in protecting us in sometimes very difficult circumstances.
“The Bill also provides innovative new powers, described as ‘transformative’ by the Scottish SPCA, that will allow animal welfare enforcement agencies to quickly rehome animals in their care.”
The Bill’s full title is the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.
An independently-chaired taskforce will start work this summer to consider whether the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) should be given extra powers to investigate wildlife crime, following a Scottish Government commitment on the matter during Parliament’s consideration of the Bill.