Section 1: Background
The Scottish Government committed to a review of animal health legislation to ensure it remains fit for purpose as part of the Programme for Government 2019-2020.
The Animal Health Act 1981 was introduced to protect public health and the health of animals through reducing the risks of disease entering the animal population. It is the primary legislation that provides Scottish Ministers with the powers to make secondary legislation for the prevention, control and eradication of animal diseases. The Animal Health Act 1981 is now almost 40 years old. It is therefore time to review this legislation to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose and is able to maintain Scotland's proud strong track record and commitment to the highest animal health and welfare standards.
It is also appropriate to consider the need to update enforcement provisions, to ensure that all tools to deter but also punish maltreatment of animals are available. Organisations responsible for the enforcement of animal health legislation have raised concerns around some technical aspects. Enforcement bodies have suggested that there is a need for a level of enforcement that could be delivered without the intervention of the Scottish courts, whilst still providing a meaningful penalty for those breaching animal health rules.
The Scottish Government considers that the ability to issue a fixed penalty notice as an alternative to prosecution in court may be a more proportionate means of penalising less serious animal health offences.
Fixed penalty notices are already widely used by enforcement authorities in relation to other kinds of offences, and can be a valuable additional enforcement tool. It is expected that the new powers for fixed penalty notices would:
- allow minor and technical offences to be dealt with quickly and proportionately,
- promote compliance with legislative requirements, and
- reduce the number of lesser offences being dealt with by courts.