Publication - Consultation analysis

Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006: analysis of consultation responses

Published: 17 Jul 2019

Summary of responses to our consultation on proposals to increase maximum penalties, speed up process for making permanent arrangements for seized animals and giving power for fixed penalty notices.

52 page PDF

466.7 kB

52 page PDF

466.7 kB

Contents
Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006: analysis of consultation responses
Executive Summary

52 page PDF

466.7 kB

Executive Summary

  • This summary presents the key findings from the analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation 'Amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006', which ran from 1 February to 26 April 2019.

Profile of Respondents

  • A total of 4,595 responses were received. Of these 69 were from groups or organisations. An additional 20 responses were received from local authorities (LAs) and the remaining 4,506 were from members of the public with an interest in the welfare of animals.

Overview of Responses and Key Themes

Question 1: The Scottish Government proposes that the maximum penalties for the most serious animal welfare offences should be strengthened. Do you agree?

  • Nearly all (99.4%) respondents agreed.
  • The majority of organisations and individuals, and all LAs agreed.
  • Key themes included; the view that the current maximum penalties available are too low; that increasing the maximum penalties would give sheriffs more sentencing options and that ultimately the increase in maximum penalties would act as a deterrent.

Question 2: Do you agree that the maximum prison sentence available for offences under section 19 (unnecessary suffering) and section 23 (animal fighting) should be increased from twelve months to five years imprisonment?

  • A majority (96.9%) of respondents agreed.
  • The majority of organisations and individuals, and all LAs agreed.
  • Key themes included; increasing the maximum prison sentence available would act as a deterrent; the current maximum prison sentence available was too low and that increased sentences would indicate the seriousness of animal welfare offences.
  • Additional comments included the desire to increase the current maximum prison sentence to over 5 years.

Question 3: Do you agree that there should be no upper limit on fines for offences under section 19 (unnecessary suffering) and section 23 (animal fighting)?

  • A majority (94.1%) of respondents agreed.
  • Separating responses by respondent type showed that the vast majority of organisations, LAs and individuals agreed.
  • Key themes included; the idea that the fines given should reflect the nature and severity of the crime; that it would act as a deterrent; sizeable fines would be appropriate where the perpetrator has profited from the crime and that fines should reflect the income of the individual.
  • Concerns were raised about individuals who may not be able to pay the fine.

Question 4: Other than increasing the maximum penalties for unnecessary suffering; should we amend legislation in any other ways, in regard to attacks on service animals?

  • A majority (79.8%) of respondents were agreed.
  • The majority of organisations and individuals who answered agreed and a minority of LAs agreed.
  • Key themes included; the belief that there is a conflict in the current legislation between the maximum possible prison sentences available under the animal welfare legislation and the Criminal Damage Act 1971; in the cases where service animals have been attacked the perpetrator may claim they acted in self-defence so tougher legislation to protect these animals may prevent such claims and that harming a service animal has the same implications as harming the handler.
  • Of the individuals not supporting further amendments the argument was that the legislation should be the same for all animals.

Question 5: Do you agree that there should be no statutory time limit for prosecuting offences under section 19 (unnecessary suffering) and section 23 (animal fighting)?

  • A majority (92.6%) of respondents agreed.
  • The vast majority of organisations, LAs and individuals agreed.
  • Key themes included; crimes should be followed up regardless of the length of time elapsed since the offence; it can take considerable time to gather evidence and that time constraints would be detrimental with regards to obtaining successful prosecutions; eliminating the statutory time limit would act as a deterrent and that perhaps each case should be treated individually. Concerns were raised that there may be a strain placed on enforcement activity by a statutory time limit.

Question 6: Do you agree the introduction of proportionate fixed penalty notices would improve the enforcement of animal welfare offences?

  • A majority (61.4%) of respondents agreed.
  • Of those who answered, a majority of organisations and individuals agreed while LAs were unanimously in agreement.
  • Key themes included; any FPNs should be a large sum to act as a deterrent; it would be a quick and effective way of dealing with offences; FPNs should be used for lesser offences only and that it would give enforcement bodies more options.
  • There was the concern that FPNs may not be effective if the individual is unable to pay and that for this reason it would not act as a deterrent.

Question 7: Do you agree that there is a need to speed up the process of making permanent arrangements for animals taken into possession under section 32 of the Act?

  • A majority (91.6%) of respondents agreed.
  • Of those who answered, the vast majority of organisations, LAs and individuals agreed.
  • Key themes included; speeding up the process of making permanent arrangements for animals taken into possession would improve welfare; welfare centres are stretched (both financially and in terms of resources) with the volume of animals currently housed and that speeding up the process of making permanent arrangements for animals taken into possession would free up rehoming centre resources.

Question 8: Do you agree that the ability to make suitable permanent arrangements for animals taken into possession after service of a notice and after lapse of a specified period will benefit the welfare of animals?

  • A majority (87.9%) of respondents agreed.
  • Of those who answered, the vast majority of organisations, LAs and individuals agreed.
  • Key themes included; the ability to speed up the process of making permanent arrangements for animals taken into possession would reduce stress in the animal and that it would improve the rehoming prospect of the animal.

Question 9: Do you agree that the ability to make suitable arrangements for these seized animals after a short period will free up resources of the relevant enforcement authorities and animal welfare charities; allowing them to help a greater number of animals?

  • A majority (86.3%) of respondents agreed.
  • The majority of organisations, LAs and individuals agreed.
  • Key themes included; it was believed that welfare charities were overwhelmed and underfunded so the proposals would be a welcome change and that extensive periods in temporary accommodation is not always suitable for animals which can lead to behavioural issues.

Question 10: Should such a new power to make permanent arrangements for animals that have been taken into possession apply to all animals, or only to commercially kept animals; such as puppies in breeding facilities, puppies for sale and livestock?

  • A majority (95.4%) of respondents thought that the power should apply to all animals.
  • The majority of organisations, LAs and individuals thought that the power should apply to all animals.
  • Key themes included; animals should not be treated differently; some respondents do not believe it is morally right to hold certain animals in higher repute than other animals and that animal abuse can occur in any species and not just commercial animals.

Question 11: Do you agree that the owner or previous keeper should have an opportunity to appeal against permanent arrangements being made within a short time period?

  • Overall a minority of respondents (35.5%) agreed.
  • Of those who answered, about half of organisations and just 35% of individuals agreed while 35% of LAs agreed.
  • Key themes included; the previous keeper has the right to appeal in the interests of fairness; an appeal is permissible but only if there is a genuine case and appeals should be carried out within a short time frame.
  • Concerns included; if there is any inclination that the person has caused suffering they should relinquish the right to appeal; appeals adversely affect rehoming chances and that an appeal may only be allowed depending on the seriousness of the crime.
  • The way in which the question was interpreted may have influenced whether the respondents agreed or not.

Question 12: Do you agree that three weeks is a reasonable period of notice before making suitable permanent arrangements for animals taken into possession?

  • A majority (61%) of respondents agreed with the proposal.
  • Of those who answered, a minority of organisations but a majority of LAs and individuals agreed with the proposal.
  • Key themes included; three weeks was a suitable time frame but only if the time for appeal was included; the time period should vary depending on the individual situation; the three week notice would subsequently mean that space could be freed up more quickly in rehoming centres; it was detrimental to the welfare of the animal to be kept for long periods of time in rehoming centres and there would be a cost saving benefit to local authorities.

Question 13: Do you agree that the previous keeper should be able to apply for compensation based on the commercial value of these animals, less reasonable costs?

  • A minority (3.5%) of respondents agreed.
  • Of those who answered, a minority of organisations and individuals but a majority of LAs agreed.
  • Key themes included; if the person was guilty of animal abuse they have then lost the rights to any compensation and that if compensation was given it should allow for reasonable costs to be awarded to rehoming agents.
  • The way in which the question was interpreted may have influenced whether the respondents agreed or not.

Question 14: Do you have any practical suggestions about how to value commercially kept animals other than farm livestock?

  • Suggestions included; market value; insurance companies; the use of a 'specialist valuer'; the advice of an auctioneer or charity; advice of a vet; a panel of experts in the field; using bodies such as the Kennel Club; pet shop valuations; using fixed rates for a particular species to avoid inflating the values due to breeding potentials and basing the value on rehoming fees.

Question 15: Please provide any further comments or suggestions on the proposed new system for making permanent arrangements for animals.

  • Suggestions included; that foster homes should be used for animals as an interim; the government or lottery should provide financial assistance to rehoming centres; the time given for appeals should be shortened and that advice from a vet should be sought about permanent arrangements for animals.
  • All of these findings, along with the detailed material within the full report and the individual responses will help to inform the Scottish Government's consideration of the way forward.

Contact

Email: Phil.Burns@gov.scot