Scottish Animal Welfare Commission minutes: 11 September 2020

Minutes from the first meeting of the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission.

Attendees and apologies


Commission Members

  • Cathy Dwyer – Chair
  • Harvey Carruthers
  • Andrew Kitchener
  • Mike Flynn
  • Libby Anderson
  • Mike Radford
  • Tim Parkin
  • Simon Girling
  • Pete Goddard
  • Marie Haskell
  • Paula Boyden

Scottish Government

  • Andrew Voas – Veterinary Head of Animal Welfare
  • John Nicolson – Policy Manager, Animal Welfare Team
  • Andy McKinlay – Policy Officer and Secretariat Support, Animal Welfare Team
  • Leia Fitzgerald – Team Leader, Wildlife Management Team


  • James Yeates, Commission Member
  • Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment

Items and actions



Actions and Decisions


Welcome and Introductions

Unfortunately due to technical issues, the Minister for the Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment could not join the meeting, but hopes to attend in future.

Chair asked for any changes in Members’ register of interests – none were noted.



Updates and Activity since last plenary meeting


Since first meeting in March, SAWC has been very active:

  • Work Plan was agreed on and published online
  • Secretariat worked with IT colleagues to create the SAWC website at, which contains an overview of the Commission; Terms of Reference; Register of Interests; Member Biographies; FOISA Guide to Information; Minutes of Meetings; Work Plan.
  • Secretariat created an Objective Connect account – a cloud storage facility which has allowed Members to access and interact with shared documentation.
  • Commission Members agreed on which ways they would work together, and a “ways of working” document was created for future reference and advice.
  • Secretariat created a reporting template for all work groups to use in due course when they are ready to produce reports. 
  • Numerous pieces of correspondence have taken place between interested stakeholders, SAWC Members and the Secretariat on a range of animal welfare issues.

New concerns of “pandemic puppies” have arisen since the coronavirus pandemic began, in terms of:

  • High prices for puppies
  • Whether rising cases of domestic violence has led to an increase in non-accidental injuries to puppies
  • Whether a decrease in donations to animal welfare charities has had a knock-on effect in the puppy and other sectors
  • As furlough ends and redundancies increase, whether this will trigger an increase in rehousing of puppies
  • Whether owners will be less able to afford veterinary care
  • Mounting debts for veterinary practices

Scottish Government

Covid-19 has been the main focus for animal welfare teams:

  • Lockdown restrictions have led to numerous queries about e.g. dog walking, grooming services, puppy buying
  • SG are funding a puppy buying awareness campaign to be delivered by Scottish SPCA.
  • SG worked closely with the IMT, Public Health Scotland and local environment health teams to provide support following the coronavirus outbreak at a food processing plant in Coupar Angus. 
  • SG set up a Scottish Zoo Animal Welfare Fund, and have held on-going discussions about the reopening of zoos.

In the run up to withdrawal from the EU, there have been discussions to clarify legislation regarding transport and slaughter of animals.

Work on commencing the provisions of the Animals and Wildlife Act has been progressing, as it seeks to increase maximum penalties for animal cruelty offences; introduce Finn’s Law to protect police dogs and horses; rehoming animals more quickly and end licensed killing of seals.



Members to carefully monitor this issue over the coming months and decide whether it becomes significant enough to discuss further.


Work Group Updates


Members discussed a draft statement they had prepared which sets out the definitions of welfare and sentience.  They agreed that revisions need to be made to the two appendices.

Glue Traps

Members discussed responses to a recently issued invitation to a variety of stakeholders to submit statements on opinions of glue traps.

Exotic Pets

Members are still in the active data gathering phase at the moment, and discussed information available so far.  Reach outs have been made to local authorities and a number of other stakeholders to ascertain the impact of the situation on exotic pets throughout the country.


Members discussed a recent statement submitted by the Wild Animal Welfare Committee (WAWC) on wild animal welfare.  WAWC have considered a virtual conference to discuss various related issues early next year.  


Members are currently reading the Scottish Government’s Management of Wild Deer in Scotland: Deer Working Group report, published in February 2020.  It was agreed to focus on the welfare aspects, rather than the entirety of the document.



Work group members to revise appendices of statement and then recirculate to other members.


Work group to reconvene, work on a definitive statement on glue traps, followed by a recommendation. 



Work group to continue to gather data on the level of sale of exotic species and taxa being sold.



Work group members agreed that it would be a good idea to join the conference with WAWC and look into possibility of setting up further joint workshops.



A group planning meeting will meet w/c 14 September.


Work Plan Discussion

Members went through each part of the work plan to decide whether any areas needed to be revised.


Members felt that they were moving towards completion of their position.  They also raised the possibility of including case studies on cephalopods and decapod crustaceans.  They are also keen to see the outcomes of a forthcoming project on sentience by DEFRA.

Glue Traps

Members agreed they were close to completion of their position, but plan on a scoping study for wider issues of wildlife management.  There is potential for the work group to expand the remit beyond just glue traps.

Exotic Pets

Members agreed that there was a lot of work still to do in terms of evidence gathering and analysis, but that there was a clear plan for moving ahead.


Members agreed there was much work still to undertake, but were encouraged by the prospect of working with WAWC by means of virtual conferences/workshops.


Members continue to consult on this issue and the work group will shortly meet again in order to discuss SG’s Deer Management report.

Medium Term

Members agreed that the medium term areas identified in the work plan are still within focus:

  • Dog training and licensing
  • Codes of practice v industry guidance
  • Animal welfare re: sustainable fish farming
  • Abattoirs & mobile slaughterhouses
  • Wildcat reintroduction

Longer Term

Members agreed that the long term areas identified in the work plan are still within focus, with a potential to move the welfare of Decapods and Crustaceans up to “medium term:”

  • Rewilding
  • Performing Animals
  • Horse/greyhound racing
  • Decapods and Crustaceans




Members agreed that another work group should be set up to assist in the setting up and undertaking of future conferences/workshops.


New and emerging issues


Members discussed emerging issues around beaver reintroduction, relocation and release sites around Scotland.


Cat microchipping is an emerging topic – there has been a DEFRA consultation on the issue.  SG might bring this topic to SAWC for discussion in the near futur

Dog Training and Licensing

Members agreed to keep a watching brief on this issue, and to keep this as a medium term focus on the work plan. 

Annual report

The Commission will issue an annual report on how the Scottish Government has had regard to the welfare needs of sentient animals by June 2021.



A work group on beaver management to be set up.





Next Meeting/s

Commission discussed when the next plenary meeting should take place.






Next meeting to take place at the beginning of December – Secretariat to set up.




Members discussed ways of working, and agreed on the benefit of holding oral evidence sessions if suitable for the particular work groups. 






The Chair will amend the Commission’s “ways of working” document to reflect the potential of holding oral evidence gathering sessions.


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