Information

Animal welfare prosecutions reported by the Scottish SPCA: 2011-2019

Findings of analysis of animal welfare case data collected by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.


Results

Charge details

Number of cases, charges and persons

There were 1,543 charges submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (PF) by the Scottish SPCA with offence dates from 1 January 2011 up until 23 July 2019 (closed cases only). These charges came from 873 legal cases involving 1,065 persons (unique persons identified using a combination of forename, date and place of birth, occupation, city and postcode)[21].

A case may involve multiple persons with multiple charges. Some of these cases may be incredibly complex with many persons and charges involved. Of the 873 cases, 399 (45.7%) of these involved more than one charge and 190 (21.8%) involved more than one person. However, less than 2% of cases involved more than five charges or more than two persons. For cases with more than one charge, the average (median) number of charges was two (IQR=1) or one (IQR=1) overall. For cases where there was more than one person involved the median number of persons was two (IQR=0), or one (IQR=0) overall.

Of the 1,065 persons, 321 (30.1%) of these had more than one charge from at least one of the cases for which they were involved. For persons with more than one charge, the median number of charges was two (IQR=1) or one (IQR=1) overall. At least 12 (1.1%) persons were involved in more than one case[22]. For persons with more than one case the median number of cases was two (IQR=0), or one (IQR=0) overall.

Number of charges by year of offence

Since 2011 the number of charges rose, peaking in 2013. From 2014 onwards these numbers then started to decline again year on year until 2018. This trend is shown in Figure 1. For the most recent data (2019), only a partial year (up until 23 July) is represented (26 charges) and is therefore excluded from this graph.

The pattern shown here could be due to a number of reasons, where further investigation of the data – including a longer term analysis and an examination of Scottish SPCA and wider policy and practice could be considered. For example, it is possible that we see a peak in 2013 due to increased awareness from campaigns or events, a change in policy or practice, or even a change in staffing at the Scottish SPCA Special Investigations Unit or PF office. It may also be useful to consider other aspects of the data itself, such as the types of offence, or how many people or cases were involved by year e.g. where there may have been spate of larger or more serious cases around this time with more people or charges, or even where recording practices may have differed, leading to differences in the data quality itself.

Figure 1. Number of charges by year of offence
A line graph depicting the trend of annual number of charges between 2011 and 2018. The figure shows a line first increasing from approximately 175 charges in 2011 to just over 250 cases in 2013, and then decreasing from to just over 100 cases in 2018.

The proportion of charges that led to a conviction varied by year of offence.[23] This relationship was statistically significant but with a relatively small effect size.[24] The proportion of charges that led to a conviction was lowest in 2015 (44%) and highest in 2013, where 68.0% of charges submitted to the PF lead to a conviction (Figure 2). This suggests that not only were there more charges in 2013, a higher proportion of these were ‘successful’ when compared to other years.

Figure 2. Proportion of charges convicted by year of offence
A horizontally stacked bar chart depicting the proportion of charges that led to a conviction, and the proportion that did not, as percentages, between 2011 and 2018.

Legislation

Table 2 shows the most common legislation used for all charges submitted to the PF by the Scottish SPCA since 2011. This shows the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 as the most common legislation used (86.7%). This is followed by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (6.5%), the Pet Animals Act 1951 (2.5%) and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (0.6%). Legislation with less than 10 charges are combined as ‘other’ legislation (3.6%).

Table 2. Most common legislation (<10=other)
Most common legislation (<10=other) Frequency %
Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 1338 86.7
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 101 6.5
Pet Animals Act 1951 39 2.5
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 10 0.6
Other 55 3.6
Total 1543 100.0

Charge type

Since January 2011 the most common charge type was those covered by Section 19 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) 2006 Act for unnecessary suffering (59.5%) (Table 3). This was followed by charges under Section 24 (18.5%) for failures to ensure the welfare of animals. Together, these two charge types made up 78% of all charges submitted to the PF by the Scottish SPCA from 2011 onwards. A number of less common charges are shown also in Table 3. Together with the two most common charge types (Sections 19 and 24), these make up 94.6% of all charges. Charge types with less than 10 (5.4%) are grouped together as ‘other’ charges types.

Including only those offences covered by the 2006 Act, this means that 68.6% of these were for charges under Section 19 (unnecessary suffering). This is a smaller proportion than seen in the report by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (2017) (81%). However, methodological differences mean that these figures should not be directly compared. For example, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (2017) look only at convictions, not all charges regardless of outcome. In addition, the figures in this report represent charges, not persons. There are also differences in time periods and the use of calendar or financial year, and where the report by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (2017) may only include figures for the main offences covered by the 2006 Act, rather than all those included here.

Table 3. Most frequent charge types (<10=other)
Most common charge types (<10 = other) Frequency %
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 19 (unnecessary suffering) 918 59.5
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 24
(ensuring welfare of animals)
286 18.5
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 29 (abandonment) 60 3.9
Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 Sect 11 (prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild animals) 50 3.2
Pet Animals Act 1951 Sect 1 (licensing of pet shops) 32 2.1
Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 Sect 1 (protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs) 30 1.9
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 23 (animal fights) 28 1.8
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 40 (disqualification orders) 17 1.1
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 20 (mutilation) 15 1.0
Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 Sect 5 (prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild birds) 13 0.8
Dangerous Dog Act 1991 (unspecified) 10 0.6
Other (<10) 84 5.4
Total 1543 100.0

Offence type

The most common type of offence was to omit to provide veterinary attention. This represented 29% of all charges submitted to the PF since 2011 by the Scottish SPCA. A further 20% of charges were for offences of omission of both veterinary attention and adequate nutrition, whilst 18.4% of offences were for failings to meet the needs of an animal. The three most common offence types made up over two-thirds of all charges (68.2%).

Table 4 shows the frequency of the most common offence types which made up 89.5% of all charges. Offence types with less than 10 charges were classified as ‘other’ offences (11.1%). A small number (0.4%) were missing offence details from the charge.

Table 4. Most frequent offence types (<10=other)
Most common charge types (<10 = other) Frequency %
Omit to provide veterinary attention 447 29.0
Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition 318 20.6
Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required 284 18.4
Omit to provide adequate nutrition 71 4.6
Cause unnecessary suffering by an act 66 4.3
Abandonment 62 4.0
Set in position trap to cause injury to any animal 17 1.1
Breach of disqualification order 17 1.1
Offer for sale without relevant licence 16 1.0
Have in possession of control wild birds 14 0.9
Setting snares 13 0.8
Keep an animal for fighting 11 0.7
Advertise and sell animals without a licence 11 0.7
Possession of dangerous dog 10 0.6
Carry out prohibited procedure -Tail docking 10 0.6
Other 170 11.0
Total 1537 99.6
Missing 6 0.4
Total 1543 100.0

Offence by charge type

Table 5 shows how nearly half of all offences covered by Section 19 of the 2006 Act (unnecessary suffering) were for omissions to provide veterinary treatment (48.5%). A further 34.7% were for omissions to provide veterinary treatment and adequate nutrition. For offences covered by Section 24 of the 2006 Act, nearly all were classed as a failure to meet the needs of an animal as required (97.2%). All Section 29 charges from the 2006 Act (abandonment) were also recorded with an offence type of abandonment.

Maximum penalty amounts for offences covered by Section 23 of the 2006 Act (animal fights) are due to increase with the introduction of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill. Since 2011, just over a third of these were for keeping an animal for fighting (35.7%), whilst the remaining charges (64.3%) were for other offences such as possessing or supplying equipment or video recordings for animal fights (28.6%), causing or training an animal to fight (21.4%) or for taking part or being present at a fight (14.3%).

Table 5. Offence by charge type for Section 19 charges from the 2006 Act
Offence type – Section 19 charges from the 2006 Act only Frequency %
Omit to provide veterinary attention 444 48.5
Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition 318 34.7
Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required / Abandonment 7 0.8
Omit to provide adequate nutrition 69 7.5
Cause unnecessary suffering by an act 58 6.3
Other 20 2.2
Total 916 100.0

Charge type by year of offence

Table 6 shows the number of charges submitted to the PF by the Scottish SPCA for the most common charge types by year of offence. For Section 19 offences, the number of charges was highest in 2014 and lowest in 2016 – excluding the partial year of 2019. For Section 24 offences, the highest number of charges were from 2013 and the lowest from 2018. For Section 29 offences, the highest number of charges occurred in 2016, with either zero or less than five from this year onwards. Similarly, Section 11 offences from the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are rare for the last three years, along with in 2011 and 2013. The highest number were from 2014.

Table 6. Most common charge types by year of offence
Year of Offence Most common charge types (<10 = other)
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 19 AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 24 AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 29 Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 Sect 11
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
2011 99 10.8 31 10.8 10 16.7 * *
2012 145 15.8 30 10.5 9 15.0 12 24.0
2013 145 15.8 50 17.5 6 10.0 * *
2014 155 16.9 44 15.4 10 16.7 17 34.0
2015 102 11.1 31 10.8 6 10.0 9 18.0
2016 90 9.8 40 14.0 13 21.7 6 12.0
2017 92 10.0 37 12.9 * * * *
2018 77 8.4 18 6.3 * * * *
2019 13 1.4 5 1.7 * * * *
Total 918 100.0 286 100.0 60 100.0 50 100.0

Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5.

The most common charge types do not vary by year of offence - for every year between 2011 and 2019, the most common charge type is for offences covered by Section 19 (unnecessary suffering) of the 2006 Act, followed by Section 24 offences (ensuring welfare of animals), Section 29 offences (abandonment) and Section 11 offences from the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild animals).

There is a small amount of variation each year in the proportion that each of these charge types represent (Figure 3). Section 19 offences make up the highest proportion in 2018, representing 68.8% of all charges for that year, and lowest in 2019, representing 50% of all charges – although this is a partial year only (up until July). Section 24 offences range from 12.8% of all charges in 2012 up to 26.6% in 2017. Section 29 offences represent 7.5% of charges in 2016 but appear very little in the years following this (2017-2019). Section 11 offences from the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 make up 7.0% of charges in 2014, but similar to Section 29 offences from the 2006 Act, little to no charges for these offences occurred from 2017 and up until July 2019. In addition, zero or less than five charges for these offences occurred in years 2011 and 2013.

Figure 3. Most common charge types by year of offence
A clustered bar chart showing the most common charge types by year of offence between 2011 and 2019. The clusters represent the charge type that falls under either the AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 19, the AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 24, the AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 29 Wildlife,  or the Countryside Act Sect 11.

Offence type by year of offence

Table 7 shows the number of offence types for the most common types of offence, broken down by year of offence. For the offences of omitting to provide veterinary treatment, the highest number occurred in 2012 (17.7%) and the lowest in 2016 (9.2%%) – excluding the partial year of 2019. Offences omitting to provide veterinary treatment and adequate nutrition were highest in 2013 (21.4%) and lowest in 2017 (4.4%). Failing to meet an animals needs as required occurred most frequently also in 2013 (17.6%) and was lowest in 2018 (6.0%). Omitting to provide adequate nutrition saw the most offences in 2016 (15.5%) and the least in 2011 (9.9%) and 2014 (9.9%). Causing unnecessary suffering by an act peaked in 2014 (31.8%) but then declined again after this year, remaining low. Abandonment offences were highest in 2016 (22.6%) but also declined and remained low after this time.

For most years, omitting to provide veterinary attention was the most common type of offence – in particular from 2017 onwards where this offence made up between 41% and 45% of charges each year. However, for some years this was not the case. For example, in years 2013 and 2014 the most common offence was for the omission of both veterinary treatment and adequate nutrition, representing around 26% of all charges in each year (Figure 4). Other types of offence also vary in the proportion of charges they represent each year, such as failing to meet an animals needs as required. This offence represents a lower proportion of charges than omitting to provide veterinary attention and adequate nutrition for the earlier years, in particular in 2012 and up until 2016 when we start to see the pattern reverse for years 2016 and 2017. By 2018 there is a similar proportion made up by both types.

Figure 4. Type of offence by year of offence
A clustered bar chart showing the proportions of offence types by year of offence between 2011 and 2019. The clusters represent the offence type, which may be ‘Omit to provide veterinary attention’, ‘Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition’, ‘Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required’, ‘Omit to provide adequate nutrition’, or ‘Cause unnecessary suffering by an act’.
Table 7. Most common offence type by year of offence (Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5)
Year of Offence Most common offence types
Omit to provide veterinary attention Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required Omit to provide adequate nutrition Cause unnecessary suffering by an act Abandonment
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
2011 48 10.7 43 13.5 31 10.9 7 9.9 * * 10 16.1
2012 79 17.7 47 14.8 30 10.6 9 12.7 7 10.6 9 14.5
2013 53 11.9 68 21.4 50 17.6 8 11.3 * * 6 9.7
2014 61 13.6 65 20.4 45 15.8 7 9.9 21 31.8 10 16.1
2015 45 10.1 35 11.0 30 10.6 10 14.1 15 22.7 7 11.3
2016 41 9.2 28 8.8 41 14.4 11 15.5 6 9.1 14 22.6
2017 63 14.1 14 4.4 34 12.0 10 14.1 6 9.1 * *
2018 46 10.3 18[25] 5.7 17 6.0 925 12.7 6 9.1 * *
2019 11 2.5 * * 6 2.1 * * * * * *
Total 447 100.0 318 100.0 284 100.0 71 100.0 66 100.0 62 100.0

Animals involved

Animal type

Dogs were specified as at least one of the types of animals involved in 60.3% of all charges. Cats were listed in 10.1% of charges. Charges with just dogs involved made up the vast majority (59.9%), followed by charges with just cats, wild animals and birds, horses and ponies, sheep and cattle and rabbits (Table 8). Other animal types – including those labelled as various but unspecified or mixed categories with small numbers (e.g. dog and cat or dog and other), were grouped together as other animal types.

That dogs are the most common animal involved is what we might expect and supports findings from previous research using animal welfare prosecutions e.g. Arluke and Luke (1997). The actual proportions were broadly similar to those seen in MSPCA cases (57.8%), although the proportion of cats involved here was less so – around 10% as compared to 26.9% by Arluke and Luke (1997). However, despite the similar figures we see for dogs, it is worth bearing in mind here the many differences between these study populations being limited to physical abuse cases in Massachusetts over 20 years ago.

Table 8. Type of animals involved in charge
Animals involved in charge Frequency %
Dog only 925 59.9
Cat only 154 10.0
Wild Animals & Birds 141 9.1
Horses & Ponies 101 6.5
Sheep & Cattle 64 4.1
Rabbit 36 2.3
Other (incl. mixed) 122 7.9
Total 1543 100.0

Animal type by charge type

For both Section 19 offences (unnecessary suffering) and Section 24 offences (ensuring welfare) under the 2006 Act the most common animal type involved was dogs (Table 9). Section 24 offences were less dominated by charges involving just dogs than Section 19 offences. For Section 29 offences (abandonment) more charges involved cats than dogs.

Table 9. Animal type by charge type for most common charge types
Animals involved in charge Most common charge types
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 19 AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 24 AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 29
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Dog only 626 68.2 150 52.4 22 36.7
Cat only 86 9.4 32 11.2 26 43.3
Horses & Ponies 58 6.3 29 10.1 * *
Sheep & Cattle 39 4.2 18 6.3 * *
Wild Animals & Birds 33 3.6 8 2.8 * *
Rabbit 26 2.8 8 2.8 * *
Other (incl. mixed) 50 5.4 41 14.3 10 16.7
Total 918 100.0 286 100.0 60 100.0

Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5

Animal type by offence type

For all offence types with the exception of abandonment, dogs are the most common animals involved, although offences for failing to meet the needs of an animal as required, omitting to provide adequate nutrition and causing unnecessary suffering by an act saw this to a lesser degree (Table 10). For these offences there is a wider variety of other animals involved at a higher level. For offences causing unnecessary suffering by an act, dogs are closely followed by wild animals and birds as the most common victims. In addition, as seen with charge type above, for offences related to abandonment cats are the most common animal involved, closely followed by dogs.

Table 10. Offence type by animals involved in charge (Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5)
Animals involved in charge Most common offence types
Omit to provide veterinary attention Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required Omit to provide adequate nutrition Cause unnecessary suffering by an act Abandonment
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Dogs only 330 73.8 225 70.8 144 50.7 39 54.9 26 39.4 22 35.5
Cats only 51 11.4 16 5.0 33 11.6 5 7.0 14 21.2 27 43.5
Horses & Ponies 17 3.8 30 9.4 30 10.6 7 9.9 * * * *
Sheep & Cattle 10 2.2 22 6.9 17 6.0 5 7.0 * * * *
Wild Animals & Birds 5 1.1 * * 8 2.8 * * 21 31.8 * *
Rabbit 10 2.2 11 3.5 8 2.8 5 7.0 * * * *
Other (incl. mixed) 24 5.4 14[26] 4.4 44 15.5 1026 14.1 * * 11 17.7
Total 447 100.0 318 100.0 284 100.0 71 100.0 66 100.0 62 100.0

Number of animals involved

The number of animals involved was recorded for 1,191 of the 1,543 charges (77.2%). This meant that detail for the number of animals involved was missing for the remaining 352 charges (22.8%). For charges where this detail was included, the average (median) number of animals involved was one (IQR=2) and most involved one (55.9%) or two animals (17.6%).

Charge by number of animals involved

Where this was recorded, the average number of animals involved varied slightly by charge type, although for all charge types with the exception of those from Section 1 of the Pet Animals Act 1951 (licensing of pet shops) and Section 23 (animal fighting) of the 2006 Act, it was most common for there to be one animal involved in the charge.

For charges under Section 19 (unnecessary suffering) of the 2006 Act the average (median) number of animals involved was one (IQR=1), where 67.0% of charges involved one animal and 16.3% involved two. For offences covered by Section 24 (ensuring welfare), the median number of animals involved was two (IQR=6), demonstrating that the number of animals involved tended to be higher and more varied than offences covered by Section 19. Compared to the two-thirds of Section 19 charges which involved one animal, just under one-third (32.1%) of Section 24 charges involved just one animal, with a further 21.8% involving two.

Section 29 (abandonment) offences also had a higher median value than Section 19 charges (median=2, IQR=2), but the lower IQR shows that there was less variation in the number of animals involved. For 47.8% of Section 29 charges, one animal was involved, whilst in 26.1% of charges, two were involved.

For the two charge types where the highest frequency of charges involved more than one animal, it was most common for them to involve three animals. This was the case for 20% of charges under Section 1 of the Pet Animals Act 1951 (unlicensed pet shops) and 43.5% of those under Section 23 of the 2006 Act (animal fights). This is to be expected given these types of charges, where the nature and motivation of these offences might make them more likely to involve more than one animal – depending on the specific type of offence. However, in each of these charge types the numbers of charges represented is relatively low. For those under Section 1 of the Pet Animals Act 1951 this detail was missing for 68.8% of charges. For Section 23 offences from the 2006 Act, although the picture is more complete - just 17.9% missing detail on the number of animals involved, the overall number of these charges in the data is still relatively low – 28 overall and 23 with detail on the number of animals involved.

Offence by number of animals involved

The average number of animals involved also varied by the type of offence and was similar to charge type. This is because many of the specific offence types fall under one or another of the main charge types (see section 4.1).

Offences omitting to provide veterinary treatment had an average (median) of one (IQR=0) animal involved in a charge. The very low IQR demonstrates how little this tended to deviate from the average – 76.5% of these offences involved one animal and 13.3% involved two. Similarly, for offences omitting to provide both veterinary treatment and adequate nutrition, the average number of animals involved was again one (IQR=1). The IQR in this case was slightly higher, reflecting the increased variability of the number of animals in these charges compared to offences for the omission of veterinary treatment alone. However, the majority (58.7%) of these offences did involve just one animal, with 19.2% involving two.

As most of the offences for failing to meet an animals needs as required were for charges listed as Section 24 from the 2006 Act (97.9%), it is as expected that we see the same average number of animals involved in these offences (median=2, IQR=7) and a similar proportion which involve one (31.3%) or two (21.9%) animals. Likewise, nearly all offences for abandonment were recorded with a charge type of Section 29 from the 2006 Act (96.8%) and it is therefore unsurprising that we see the same average number of animals involved in these offences (median=2, IQR=2) and a similar proportion of those involving one (47.8%) or two (26.1%) animals.

Offences for omitting to provide adequate nutrition also had an average (median) of two (IQR=2) animals involved, with just under half (48.4%) involving one animal and just under a quarter (23.4%) involving two. Causing unnecessary suffering by an act involved an average of one (IQR=1) animal, where 62.2% were recorded as involving one and 26.1% involving two. However, for this offence, details on the number of animals involved was missing in 43.9% of charges. This is perhaps in part due to the type of animals involved in these cases, where nearly a third involved wild animals or birds (see Table 10).

Outcome of charge

Guilty plea

Of all charges, 45.7% (n=705) were listed as having pled guilty and 54.3% (n=838) either did not pled guilty or were not specifically listed as having done so.[27] Of those pleading guilty, 97.3% (n=686) of these were in court and 2.7% (n=19) were to the PF. Due to time constraints this has not been broken down by charge type or offence, but could be a possible avenue for future research if desired.

Outcome

Over half (56.5%) of all charges resulted in a guilty verdict in court (Table 11). All but two of these would be classed as a conviction[28] meaning 56.4% of charges resulted in a conviction. This rate of conviction is lower than that reported by the RSPCA (2018) of around 92% between 2016 and 2018. However, these figures cannot be directly compared due to methodological differences. As is typical in calculations of conviction rates, the RSPCA figures may only include those proceeded against. They also represent persons rather than charges. Accounting for charges proceeded against only (and excluding charges dealt with using fiscal measures), the conviction rate here rises to 84.4% ­- although this is still representative of charges only, not persons.

Just over a fifth (21.7%) of all charges did not lead to proceedings and 11.4% resulted in fiscal measures. There was a verdict of not guilty for 7.1% of charges, the case was dropped for 2.3% and a small number received a verdict of not proven (0.8%).

Table 11. Outcome of charge
Outcome of charge Frequency %
Guilty in court 871 56.5
No proceedings 335 21.7
Fiscal measures 176 11.4
Not guilty in court 110 7.1
Case dropped[29] 36 2.3
Not proven 13 0.8
Total[30] 1541 100.0

Outcome by charge

For all charge types, a guilty verdict in court was the most common outcome (Table 12). For Section 19 and 24 of the 2006 Act and Section 11 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the next most common outcome was for there to be no proceedings, although this was more common for charges using Section 24 (26.6%) than both Section 19 (19.0%) and Section 11 (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) charges (16.0%). For charges under Section 29 of the 206 Act, there were more fiscal measures than those resulting in no proceedings. There was also a higher proportion of fiscal measures (20.0%) when compared to other charge types. For Section 11 charges from the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 there were a higher proportion of outcomes of not guilty or for the case to be dropped than other charge types. However, the numbers here are relatively small and should be treated with caution.

Outcome by offence

For all types of offence the most common outcome was for a charge to result in a guilty verdict in court (Table 13). For most offences the next most frequent outcome was for no proceedings. For charges of abandonment, there were similar numbers receiving Fiscal measures (19.4%) as resulting in no proceedings (17.7%). There was a higher proportion of charges resulting in no proceedings for failing to meet the needs of an animal as required (26.8%) and for causing unnecessary suffering (25.8%) when compared to all other offence types. There were also lower proportions of these offences leading to a not guilty or not proven verdict when compared to most other offence types.

Table 12. Outcome of charge by charge type (Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5)
Outcome of charge Most common charge types
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 19 AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 24 AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 29 Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 Sect 11
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Guilty in court 541 59.1 156 54.5 33 55.0 27 54.0
Not guilty in court 69 7.5 12[31] 4.2 * * 7 14.0
Not proven 6 0.7 * * * * * *
Fiscal measures 109 11.9 36 12.6 12 20.0 * *
No proceedings 174 19.0 76 26.6 11 18.3 8 16.0
Case dropped[32] 17 1.9 6 2.1 * * 5 10.0
Total 916 100.0 286 100.0 60 100.0 50 100.0
Table 13. Outcome of charge by most common offence types (Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5)
Outcome of charge Most common offence types
Omit to provide veterinary attention Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required Omit to provide adequate nutrition Cause unnecessary suffering by an act Abandonment
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
No proceedings 76 17.0 67[33] 21.1 76 26.8 1333 18.6 17 25.8 11 17.7
Fiscal measures 66 14.8 29 9.1 36 12.7 8 11.4 6 9.1 12 19.4
Guilty in court 253 56.7 197 61.9 155 54.6 42 60 38 57.6 35 56.5
Not guilty in court / Not proven 39 8.7 25 7.8 11 3.9 7 10 * * * 3.2
Case dropped[34] 12 2.7 * * 6 2.1 * * * * * 3.2
Total 446 100.0 318 100.0 284 100.0 70 100.0 66 100.0 62 100.0

Charge type by conviction

For all charge types except those charged under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs), over half resulted in a conviction (Table 14). However, there was no statistically significant relationship between charge type and the likelihood of a conviction.

Table 14. Charge type by whether charge resulted in conviction
Most common charge types Outcome of charge conviction
No Yes Total
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 19 377 41.2 539 58.8 916 100.0
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 24 130 45.5 156 54.5 286 100.0
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 29 27 45.0 33 55.0 60 100.0
Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 Sect 11 23 46.0 27 54.0 50 100.0
Pet Animals Act 1951 Sect 1 16 50.0 16 50.0 32 100.0
Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 Sect 1 16 53.3 14 46.7 30 100.0
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 23 9 32.1 19 67.9 28 100.0
Total 598 42.7 804 57.3 1402 100.0

Offence type by conviction

With the exception of charges listed as offering for sale without relevant licence, over half of all offence types resulted in a conviction (Table 15). Although the conviction rate for offences offering for sale without a relevant licence appears much lower than all other offences (31.3%), and offences for the breach of disqualification order much higher (76.5%), no statistically significant relationship was found between offence type and whether the charge resulted in a conviction or not. This may be in part due to the relatively low numbers observed.

Table 15. Offence type by whether charge resulted in conviction
Most common offence types Outcome of charge conviction
No Yes Total
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Omit to provide veterinary attention 195 43.7 251 56.3 446 100.0
Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition 121 38.1 197 61.9 318 100.0
Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required 129 45.4 155 54.6 284 100.0
Omit to provide adequate nutrition 28 40.0 42 60.0 70 100.0
Cause unnecessary suffering by an act 28 42.4 38 57.6 66 100.0
Abandonment 27 43.5 35 56.5 62 100.0
Set in position trap to cause injury to any animal 6 35.3 11 64.7 17 100.0
Breach of disqualification order 4 23.5 13 76.5 17 100.0
Offer for sale without relevant licence 11 68.8 5 31.3 16 100.0
Have in possession of control wild birds 6 42.9 8 57.1 14 100.0
Total 555 42.4 755 57.6 1310 100.0

Sentencing

Disposal

Of those we would expect to have a disposal recorded, that is, had a guilty result in court or received fiscal measures, the PF gave a warning in 12.2% of charges and a fine for 4.6%. Over half (53.6%) received a disqualification order and just over a third (34.3%) were given a fine in court (Table 16).

Of charges with a guilty result in court only, nearly two-thirds (64.2%) received a disqualification order, 41.2% were given a fine and just over a fifth (21.7%) received a community payback order (CPO). The relatively high numbers of disqualification orders in comparison to other disposal types may be in part due to the fact that although under Section 40 of the 2006 Act there is no explicit presumption that a disqualification order be made for these convictions, there is a requirement for the court to state the reasons for not doing so if this was not done.

Table 16. Disposal type
Disposal type Disposal received
Yes No Total
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Fine - Procurator Fiscal 48 4.6 999 95.4 1047 100.0
Warning - Procurator Fiscal 128 12.2 919 87.8 1047 100.0
Fine - Court 359 34.3 688 65.7 1047 100.0
Disqualification order 561 53.6 486 46.4 1047 100.0
Deprivation order 75 7.2 972 92.8 1047 100.0
Prison time 64 6.1 983 93.9 1047 100.0
Community service 28 2.7 1019 97.3 1047 100.0
Community payback order 189 18.1 858 81.9 1047 100.0
Supervision order 37 3.5 1010 96.5 1047 100.0

Many charges resulted in an outcome of more than one disposal type. The most common outcome for charges with a guilty result in court or receiving a fiscal measure was a disqualification order and a court fine (19.1%) (Table 17).

Table 17. Most common disposal types
Most common disposal(s) Frequency %
Disqualification order and Court fine 200 19.1
Court fine 131 12.5
Fiscal warning 126 12.0
CPO and Disqualification order 111 10.6
Disqualification order 92 8.8
Fiscal fine 48 4.6
Prison time and Disqualification order 41 3.9
CPO 35 3.3
Deprivation order and Disqualification order 21 2.0
Community service and Disqualification order 18 1.7
Deprivation order, Disqualification order and Court fine 14 1.3
Supervision order and Disqualification order 14 1.3
Prison time, Deprivation order and Disqualification order 13 1.2
Supervision order, CPO and Disqualification order 11 1.1
Other 57 5.4
Total 932 89.0
Missing 115 11.0
Total 1047 100.0

This was followed by a court fine (12.5%) and a fiscal warning (12.0%). For 11% of the charges that resulted in fiscal measures or a guilty verdict there was no disposal recorded. Of these, over half (56.5%) were admonished or received an absolute discharge, meaning the it would not be unexpected for these charges to have no disposal recorded. The remaining 41.7% of those missing a disposal pled guilty and therefore a disposal might have been expected.

Disposal by charge

For all of the most common charge types from the 2006 Act, over half of all charges with a guilty verdict or subject to PF measures resulted in a disqualification order (Table 18). Although there were relatively few charges for offences covered by Section 23 (animal fighting), all of those with a guilty verdict in court received a disqualification order. For offences covered by Section 19 (unnecessary suffering) and Section 24 (abandonment), the proportion of those receiving a disqualification order was lower, accounting for 65.6% of Section 19 and 73.7% of Section 24 charges with a guilty outcome in court.

For Section 23 charges with a guilty verdict in court, a higher proportion also received prison time (68.4%) than any of the other most common charge types under the 2006 Act (i.e. 9.0% for Section 24 and 5.0% for Section 19). This is perhaps not surprising considering the seriousness and intentionality of such offences.

Table 18. Disposal type by charge type (Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5)
Disposal type AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Section
Section 19 Section 24 Section 29 Section 23
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Fine - Procurator Fiscal 38 5.8 * * * * * *
Warning - Procurator Fiscal 71 10.9 34 17.7 8 17.8 * *
Fine - Court 226 34.8 58 30.2 17 37.8 * *
Disqualification order 356 54.8 116 60.4 23 51.1 19 95.0
Deprivation order 43 6.6 20 10.4 * * 5 25.0
Prison time 27 4.2 14 7.3 * * 13 65.0
Community service 16 2.5 6 3.1 * * * *
Community payback order 120 18.5 34 17.7 6 13.3 * *
Supervision order 23 3.5 11 5.7 * * * *

For all of the three most common charge types from the 2006 Act, receiving both a disqualification order and a court fine was most common (Table 19). For Section 23 offences (animal fighting), the most common disposal was a disqualification order together with prison time (40.0%) – although this is again based on relatively low numbers of such offences (n=8 charges).

Disposal by offence

For all of the most common offence types bar causing unnecessary harm, over half of all charges where a disposal was recorded were given a disqualification order (Table 20). For offences causing unnecessary suffering, just under a third (31.8%) of all charges received a disqualification order and 38.6% received a fine in court. A quarter (25%) also received a community payback order. The differences seen for this offence type are most likely due in part to the typical animals involved, where as we can see from Table 10 previously, many of the animals involved in these offences were wild animals or birds.

Again, for all offence types with the exception of causing unnecessary suffering, the most common disposal for those with a disposal recorded was to receive both a disqualification order and a court fine (Table 21). For offences related to the causing of unnecessary suffering, the most frequent disposal was to receive a court fine but no disqualification order. This again could be explained by the higher number of wild animals and birds involved in these offences.

Table 19. Most common disposal types by charge type (Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5)
Most common disposal(s) Most common charge types
AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 19 AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 24 AH&W Scotland Act 2006 Sect 29
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Disqualification order and Court fine 132 22.5 38 21.8 10 23.3
Court fine 78 13.3 15 8.6 5 11.6
Fiscal warning 70 11.9 33 19.0 8 18.6
CPO and Disqualification order 77 13.3 19 10.9 * *
Disqualification order 67 11.6 17 9.8 6 14.0
Fiscal fine 38 6.5 * * * *
Prison time and Disqualification order 17 2.9 8 5.2 * *
CPO 20 3.6 * * * *
Deprivation order and Disqualification order 13 2.2 7 4.0 * *
Community service and Disqualification order 10 1.7 * * * *
Deprivation order, Disqualification order and Court fine 10 1.7 * * * *
Most common charge types
Other 51 8.8 27 15.4 * *
Total 583 100.0 173 100.0 43 100.0
Table 20. Disposal by offence type (Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5)
Disposal type Most common offence types
Omit to provide veterinary attention Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required Omit to provide adequate nutrition Cause unnecessary suffering by an act Abandonment
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Fine - Procurator Fiscal 20 6.3 13 5.8 * * * * * * * *
Warning - Procurator Fiscal 46 14.4 16 7.1 34 17.8 6 12.0 * * * *
Fine - Court 107 33.5 85 37.6 59 30.9 14 28.0 17 38.6 18 38.3
Disqualification order 161 50.5 137 60.6 116 60.7 32 64.0 14 31.8 24 51.1
Deprivation order 21 6.6 13 5.8 19 9.9 7 14.0 * * * *
Prison time 9 2.8 6 2.7 16 8.4 * * * * * *
Community service 6 1.9 8 3.5 6 3.1 * * * * * *
Community payback order 51 16 45 19.9 33 17.3 8 16.0 11 25 7 14.9
Supervision order 7 2.2 12 5.3 10 5.2 * * * * * *
Table 21. Most common disposal types by offence type (Note: Where * denotes numbers less than 5)
Most common disposal(s) Most common offence types
Omit to provide veterinary attention Omit veterinary attention & adequate nutrition Fail to meet the needs of an animal as required Omit to provide adequate nutrition Cause unnecessary suffering by an act Abandonment
Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Disqualification order and Court fine 61 21.5 55 27.1 38 21.8 9 20.0 5 13.5 10 22.2
Court fine 38 13.4 26 12.8 16 9.2 * * 10 27.0 6 13.3
Fiscal warning 46 16.2 15 7.4 33 19.0 6 13.3 * * 8 17.8
CPO and Disqualification order 34 12.0 32 15.8 19 10.9 * * * * * *
Disqualification order 38 13.4 21 10.3 17 9.8 8 17.8 * * 6 13.3
Fiscal fine 20 7.0 13 6.4 * * * * * * * *
Prison time and Disqualification order * * * * 10 5.7 * * * * * *
CPO 7 2.5 6 3.0 * * * * 5 13.5 * *
Deprivation order and Disqualification order 8 2.8 * * 7 4.0 * * * * * *
Other 32[35] 11.4 28 13.9 30 17.1 9 20.0 * * * *
Total 284 100.0 203 100.0 174 100.0 45 100.0 37 100.0 45 100.0

In cumulo sentencing

Many of the charges were sentenced in cumulo (n= 524, 34%)[36] – meaning they involved more than one charge in a sentence. Of those that were sentenced in cumulo, most (55.7%) involved two charges (Table 22). Further work could be done to look at the types of charges or offences that are sentenced together and how these might differ from charges overall - although it is likely that many of these will be combinations of the most common charge types e.g. Section 19 and Section 24 of the 2006 Act.

Table 22. Number of charges included in in cumulo sentences
Number of charges sentenced in cumulo Frequency %
2 292 55.7
3 81 15.5
4 56 10.7
5 70 13.4
6 18 3.4
7 7 1.3
Total 524 100.0

Disposal amounts

Table 23 shows the average (median) disposal amounts and interquartile range for each of the disposal types. The average fine amount was £300 overall, £360 for those given in court and £200 for those given by the PF. The average length of a disqualification order was 60 months (five years) and the average custodial sentence was eight months. The average community service time given was 220 hours – although it is possible there may be issues here with inconsistencies in the units used when recording this variable i.e. this is labelled as months but would be expected to be reported in hours. This may have led to hours/months being used interchangeably and care should be taken when considering this amount. The average CPO time was 110 hours and supervision orders were given for an average of 12 months.

Table 23. Average disposal amounts
Average disposal amounts Frequency Median IQR
Fine - Overall (£) 410 300 312.5
Fine - Procurator Fiscal (£) 46 200 100
Fine - Court (£) 359 360 375
Disqualification order length (months) 564 60 84
Prison (months) 65 8 5
Community Service (hours) 28 220 100
Community Payback Order (hours) 190 145 110
Supervision Order (months) 36 12 6

Disposal amounts by charge and offence type

In cumulo sentencing presents a challenge for establishing the average penalties and proportions of maximum penalties given for individual charges or offence types. This is because it is not possible to separate how much of the sentence is due to the individual charge or offence. It is possible to calculate average disposal amounts by individual charge and offence types for just those charges not sentenced in cumulo (n=1,019, 66.0%). For Section 19 offences the average (median) fine amount was £250, just 1.25% of the £20,000 maximum available penalty for this charge. Of the 12 months available prison time, the average (median) time given was five months, representing 41.7% of the available maximum penalty. However, average prison time was calculated using only seven of the 27 charges receiving custodial sentences for Section 19 offences once in cumulo sentences were removed. These seven charges are not likely to be a true representation of all 27 Section 19 charges receiving this disposal.

This analysis is limited by the low numbers in each of the charge and offence types when broken down by disposal and will therefore not be presented on any other charge types. This may be something worth pursuing in future research with a larger set of data.

Demographic characteristics of offenders

Age

The average (mean) age on offence date for all charges[37] was 41.3 years (SD=12.1), with 6.5% under 21 years. This is similar to the average age observed in previous research (Arluke and Luke, 1997; Garrett, 2019). However, as this analysis was calculated at the level of charge, not individual persons, future research may wish to calculate this also at the person level. Future analysis may also be possible to look at the differences in charge or offence types by age, in particular where difference may exist between adult and juvenile offenders. For example, where previous research has suggested age related differences in animal type and whether offences are committed alone or as part of a group (Arluke and Luke, 1997).

Area-based deprivation – SIMD16

Postcode details were provided and converted to 2011 datazone and matched with an area based-measure of multiple deprivation (SIMD16). It is unclear whether these were the postcode details of the address details of the person charged or the locus of offence (i.e. where this took place). Those missing postcode details or with postcodes out width Scotland were excluded from this analysis (5.6%).

As can be seen from Figure 5, over a third (37.8%) of all charges were from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland, whilst 5.3% were from the 20% least deprived areas in Scotland.

Figure 5. Percentage of charges by SIMD16 quintile
A bar chart showing the percentage of charges by SIMD16 quintile between 2011 and 2019. The x-axis shows five categories of SIMD16 quintile, ranging from 1 (most deprived) to 5 (least deprived). The percentage of charges decreases from quintiles 1 to 5.

Urban/rural classification

The location details of the charge were matched to the 2013-14 urban rural six-fold classification. Figure 6 shows how over half of all charges were from urban areas (59.81%), with the remaining charges from small towns (13.9%) or rural areas (27.0%). Those missing postcode details or with postcodes out width Scotland were excluded from this analysis (5.6%).

Figure 6. Percentage of charges by 2013-14 6-fold urban/rural classification
A bar chart showing the percentage of charges by the 6-fold urban/rural classification, between 2011 and 2019. The x-axis shows the six urban-rural categories of ‘Large Urban Areas’, ‘Other Urban Areas’, ‘Accessible Small Towns’, ‘Remote Small Towns’, ‘Accessible Rural’, and ‘Remote Rural’.

Local authority area

Where postcode details were available and within Scotland (94.4% of charges), local authority (LA) area was matched to each charge record. The highest frequency of charges came from South Lanarkshire (9.0%), Fife (8.2%) and Glasgow City (8.0%) (Table 24). As some of the larger LA’s this is perhaps not surprising, although the City of Edinburgh saw relatively fewer charges (3.8%), despite being the second most populated LA in Scotland. More analysis accounting for population size would need to be carried out to look for any significant differences between LA’s.

Table 24. Local authority
Local authority Frequency %
South Lanarkshire 131 9.0
Fife 119 8.2
Glasgow City 117 8.0
Aberdeenshire 114 7.8
North Lanarkshire 111 7.6
Falkirk 59 4.1
City of Edinburgh 55 3.8
Highland 53 3.6
Dumfries and Galloway 50 3.4
West Lothian 49 3.4
Aberdeen City 47 3.2
Stirling 45 3.1
West Dunbartonshire 44 3.0
Moray 41 2.8
Renfrewshire 41 2.8
Scottish Borders 38 2.6
East Ayrshire 37 2.5
East Lothian 37 2.5
Angus 32 2.2
North Ayrshire 31 2.1
South Ayrshire 31 2.1
Perth and Kinross 28 1.9
Argyll and Bute 26 1.8
Clackmannanshire 24 1.6
Dundee City 21 1.4
Inverclyde 18 1.2
Midlothian 16 1.1
East Dunbartonshire 12 0.8
Shetland Islands 9 0.6
East Renfrewshire 8 0.5
Orkney Islands 7 0.5
Na h-Eileanan an Iar 5 0.3
Total 1456 100.0

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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