Amendments to the Animal Health Act 1981: consultation analysis
An analysis of responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on amendments to the Animal Health Act 1981.
Section 2: Analysis of Responses
Summary of Respondents
In total, 38 responses were received. Of these, 2 responses were removed as they were duplicate responses. The remaining 36 responses were available for analysis.
Respondents were asked to identify whether they were responding as an individual or on behalf of a group or organisation. Most responses (27) were submitted by groups or organisations. The remaining 9 responses were submitted by individual members of the public.
All respondents were asked to identify which sector they most aligned to. A breakdown of the number of responses received by respondent type is set out in Table 1 below.
|Sector||Number of Respondents|
|Agricultural Business / Organisation||9|
|Enforcement Agency / Officer||2|
|Member of the General Public||1|
Question 1 - Do you agree that the introduction of proportionate fixed penalty notices would improve enforcement of animal health offences?
A total of 36 responses were received for this question and of these 83.3% of respondents agreed that the introduction of proportionate fixed penalty notices would improve the enforcement of animal health offences. Meanwhile, 8.3% of respondents disagreed and the remaining 8.3% answered 'don't know'.
Separating responses by respondent type showed that the majority of organisations (92%) and individuals (56%) agreed with the proposal. Of those that disagreed with proposals, all were individuals.
33 respondents went on to provide further comments.
Those that agreed
Of those in favour of the proposals, it was most commonly suggested that fixed penalty notices would be a quick and effective method for dealing with offences. Frequently, responses also anticipated that the introduction of fixed penalty notices would improve the rate of compliance, with some respondents also noting the success of fixed penalty notices in other areas.
Support was also raised on the basis of providing an additional enforcement tool that would allow for corrective intervention. It was suggested that fixed penalty notices would offer an additional means of educating and reinforcing best practice.
"There is a need to introduce an additional level of enforcement in the form of a fixed penalty; not only to reduce the need to involve the Procurator Fiscal or the Scottish courts but also to use the opportunity to reinforce best practise and educate offenders" (The British Horse Society)
Comparisons were often made in relation to a court case, with some respondents noting that fixed penalty notices would be a more proportionate alternative. There were, however, concerns that any fixed penalty notice should be proportionate to the offence and that they should only be available for lesser offences.
"In principle, introducing the FPN regime seems appropriate but we would endorse that it should only be available to be used in respect of minor or lower level offences." (Law Society of Scotland)
Some comments highlighted the resource savings that could be made through the use of fixed penalty notices in comparison to a court case. In particular, respondents stressed that time and cost savings could be made.
"The cost for the enforcer, for the Crown and particularly for the accused of fighting a court case can often be significant and often out of proportion to any fine given to an accused found guilty of an offence." (South Ayrshire Council)
One respondent, although supportive of the proposal, suggested that further information was required in relation to cross compliance and stressed that a national enforcement database would be necessary to assist with monitoring for repeat offending.
"On balance we support the introduction of fixed penalty notices, however would like to see proposals for links to cross compliance issues, and a database, including outcomes and penalties for repeat offenders." (Food Standards Scotland)
A common theme in responses from those that agreed with the proposal and those that responded with 'Don't know', was that clarity was required on the type of offences that fixed penalty notices may be issued for. It was also suggested that further consultation would be necessary.
"…It is important however, that although ability to introduce fixed penalty notices for offences is in place, any plans to introduce fixed penalty notices for offences must be subject to consultation with industry before introduction, and subject to sufficient scrutiny from appropriate Scottish parliamentary committees." (NFU Scotland)
Those that disagreed
Of the respondents that disagreed, concerns were raised that fixed penalty notices may encourage dishonesty amongst farmers and animal keepers. Responses also suggested that financial penalties would be inappropriate in the current economic climate.
"With the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal, farmers are even more concerned about the future of farming in the UK. At such an uncertain time, introducing fixed penalty notices would be inflammatory and counterproductive. Education and support would be better received." (Individual)
Question 2 - Different fixed penalty notice regimes exist. Which fixed penalty notice regime do you think should be used for animal health offences?
In total, 32 responses were received for this question. Separating responses by respondent type showed that 26 organisations and 6 individuals provided comments.
Within the comments from organisations, there was support for fixed penalty notice regimes that were considered to be successful in other areas. There were specific references to:
- Anti-social Behaviour
- Marine offences in Scotland
- Motoring offences such as speeding
- Sale of Tobacco and Nicotine Vapour Products
- Dog Fouling
- Environmental Protection
In addition to suggestions of fixed penalty notice regimes that are currently in place, individuals and organisations also proposed specific characteristics of regimes that could be used. Responses included suggestions for the ability to issue on the spot fines, and the option to appeal any fixed penalty notice that is issued.
Further comments were received suggesting that the fixed penalty notice should be a time limited offer to make payment as a direct alternative to prosecution. It was also recommended that civil penalties would be inappropriate for animal health offences, with organisations preferring a regime that had the option of referring unpaid penalties for prosecution.
"…The mitigated penalty scheme which retains the right to follow traditional enforcement procedures such as prosecution is appropriate and proportionate in these circumstances." (North Lanarkshire Council)
There were suggestions regarding the amount of financial penalty that should be imposed. Some respondents proposed that multiple levels of fine should be available, whilst others suggested that the penalty should increase for multiple offences. Most frequently, respondents considered that the financial penalty should be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence.
"…the introduction of a proportionality test on the degree of non-compliance, number of animals affected, and the impact of the penalty on the applicant should be considered before the fixed penalty notice is issued. Where there is clear attempt to achieve significant financial gain by non-compliance, the penalty should be proportionate to that gain." (Food Standards Scotland)
Some responses were also received from respondents that disagreed with proposals to introduce fixed penalty notices. These responses reiterated their disagreement and some provided alternative suggestions such as education or restrictions on imports.
Question 3 - Are there any other amendments that could be made to the Act that you think will help to improve animal health? For example, amendments that may improve disease control, disease preparedness, biosecurity or animal movements.
Separating responses by respondent type showed that 25 organisations and 6 individuals provided comments.
Comments on biosecurity
Most frequently, respondents reflected on the importance of biosecurity and suggested that improvements could be made. Particular references were made to improving biosecurity within the equine industry.
"…the opportunity to become pro-active rather than re-active in terms of biosecurity could prevent a significant impact to horse health and welfare, industry-wide. Not only that but could reduce the potential economic impact these diseases can have. Therefore, it is suggested that the Act be used as a platform for implementing good biosecurity practices across contagious equine diseases, not just as a reaction to an outbreak." (The British Horse Society)
Specific suggestions for improving biosecurity provisions included: improving on-farm biosecurity by requiring a register of visitors deemed to be high risk (this could include vets, enforcement officers or contractors); and requiring appropriate protective clothing to be used.
Comments on other amendments to the Act
There were also suggestions that there should be more regulation of hobby farmers and pet owners to prevent the spread of disease. Suggestions were made to improving animal feed regulations; updating pet travel legislation; and to monitor private sales of animals.
"Is there any way that private sales of livestock from small holders/pet pigs etc. can be more stringently monitored i.e. if advertised in the press or social media these need to be looked at by Animal Health to prevent unauthorised movements and potential spread of disease." (Individual)
A variety of other suggestions were made by respondents. These included: improvements to traceability databases; monitoring animal movements or imports from areas where disease is present; updating powers of inspectors; and to introduce British Standards for animal health.
A number of responses from individuals and organisations stated education, training and support as being crucial to improving animal health. This was noted throughout the consultation from respondents that both agreed and disagreed with proposals to introduce proportionate fixed penalty notices.
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