Animal welfare - Scottish Government activity: Scottish Animal Welfare Commission review

Review of Scottish Government activity affecting the welfare of animals, as sentient beings, by the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC).

3. Scottish Government animal welfare legislation and policy

This section summarises the relevant legislation and policy developments during the Scottish Parliamentary term 2021-2022.

The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 (Commencement No. 3 and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2021

These Regulations brought into force on 30 September 2021 the provisions of the 2020 Act regarding disqualification orders and the new powers for inspectors allowing animals taken into possession to protect their welfare to be treated, rehomed or destroyed without requiring a court order.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Scotland) Regulations 2021

These Regulations came into force on 1 September 2021 and provide a modern system for the licensing of persons selling animals as pets, rehoming animals as pets, operating animal welfare establishments (including sanctuaries and rehoming centres), breeding dogs, breeding cats and breeding rabbits. The Regulations contain detailed licence conditions for these activities. The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 came into force on 10 October 2021 to correct deficiencies in the wording of the specific conditions regarding rehoming of kittens and supply of young animals by animal welfare establishments.

Scottish Government guidance for animal welfare establishments was issued in December 2021: The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Scotland) Regulations 2021: guidance for animal welfare establishments - (

Scottish Government officials have worked closely with Scottish SPCA and Scottish local authorities on training for inspectors on the new licensing requirements.

Dog training aids

A review of the effectiveness of Scottish Government guidance on dog training aids was published in June 2021: Dog training aids guidance: review - ( . A SAWC working group is currently considering the issue of aversive training aids and whether legislation or further guidance would be appropriate.

Restorative Justice

A review of the available evidence on the use of community-based restorative justice and empathy-based interventions in animal welfare and wildlife crime was published in January 2022: Restorative justice and empathy training for animal welfare and wildlife offences ( This followed a commitment given to explore this area during the passage of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020

Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill

In recognition of concerns about the effectiveness of the current fox-hunting legislation, the Scottish Government asked one of Scotland's most senior judges, Lord Bonomy, to carry out a detailed review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. A consultation on Lord Bonomy's recommendations closed in January 2018. The subsequent report can be found here.

The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 24 February 2022. The Bill broadly replicates the core provisions of the 2002 Act that it replaces, but also addresses the inconsistencies and ambiguities in the language of the existing legislation in order to make the law easier to understand and enforce.

The Bill provides that it is an offence to chase and/or kill a wild mammal using a dog. It also introduces new measures to:

- Limit the number of dogs that can be used to search for, stalk or flush mammals from cover above ground to two

- Introduce a licensing scheme for the use of more than two dogs to search for, stalk or flush wild mammals above ground in certain limited circumstances

- Limit the number of dogs that can be used to search for or flush foxes or mink from cover below ground to one

- Prohibit the activity known as trail hunting (the activity of directing a dog to find and follow an animal-based scent)

The Grouse Moor Management Group (Werritty Review)

The Independent review of grouse moor management was commissioned by the Scottish Government in response to a report from NatureScot which showed that around one-third of tagged golden eagles had disappeared on or around driven grouse moors.

The Group's remit was to examine the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.

Their report, which was published on 19 December 2019, recommended licensing of grouse shooting businesses and also made over 40 recommendations on other aspects of grouse moor management.

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment announced the Government's response to this report in the Scottish Parliament on 26 November 2020.

The Scottish Government broadly accepted all of the recommendations and committed introducing a licensing regime in the next Parliament (this current session). A Bill reflecting this position will be introduced to Parliament this parliamentary term, following consultation.

The Deer Working Group Review

The report of the independent Deer Working Group published on 29 January 2020 made 99 recommendations for change to deer management arrangements. These are broad-ranging proposals including phasing out the use of lead ammunition to cull deer, modernisation of existing deer legislation, the development of robust deer management plans and enhanced monitoring of deer numbers.

The Scottish Government accepted 92 of the recommendations and work to deliver the recommendations is being taken forward. As noted above, SAWC has previously supported the recommendations of the Deer Management Working Group and the importance of proposed legislation including measures to protect the welfare of deer when they are subject to management measures.

Beaver Translocations

Following a trial reintroduction at Knapdale, Scottish Ministers agreed that beavers could remain in Scotland and were given European Protected Species status on 1 May 2021.

NatureScot issues licences to enable beavers to be managed. Following concerns that too many licences were issued for lethal control, the Scottish Government committed to increasing the use of translocation, including financial and practical support.

A National Beaver Strategy has been developed by NatureScot with the support of other stakeholders including NFUS, SLE, SWT and RZSS. It includes details of goals, objectives and actions over the first 10 years and is designed to be used with existing frameworks, in particular the 'Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations' and the 'Management Framework for Beavers in Scotland'.

NatureScot was charged with implementing the new policy direction from the start of the new trapping season in the summer of 2022. Project that aim to create new populations of beavers outside their current range are now considered for licences, subject to consultation, monitoring and management. Trapping and translocation as a licensed mitigation measure will be carried out by or on behalf of NatureScot.

A SAWC working group has carried out an inquiry into the welfare aspects of lethal and non-lethal control of beavers, with input from stakeholders, and will report before the end of 2022.

Ban on the Sale and Use of Glue Traps

Glue traps, which are used to catch mice and rats, are most commonly used by professional contractors in food premises, where the use of rodenticide poisons is undesirable due to the risk of poison contamination.

There is currently no legislation governing the use of glue trap boards to catch rodents although captured animals fall under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

The SAWC report on the use of glue traps made several recommendations which the Scottish Government has considered and agrees with their preferred option of a ban on the sale and use of glue traps in Scotland. Legislation is expected in autumn 2022.

Legislation and policies impacting fish welfare from July 2021

The Fish Farming Code of Practice (Scotland) Order 2021 came into force on 22 November 2021 and approves the "Aquaculture Code of Practice - Containment of and Prevention of Escape of Fish on Fish Farms in relation to Marine Mammal Interactions".

The Code provides a combination of guidance for Aquaculture Production Businesses (APBs), together with mandatory standards with which APBs must comply. This includes a requirement for fish farms to consult Marine Scotland and obtain any relevant consents (e.g., European Protected Species licence) if they plan to deploy an Acoustic Deterrent Device (ADD), or demonstrate to Marine Scotland that their planned use will not harm marine mammals. 

This legislation enables compliance with the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and thus permits continued export of farmed fish to the United States. Currently, no APBs in Scotland have an EPS License and so the use of ADDs has ceased for the time being. A report of recent enforcement activity by MS Compliance will be published shortly on the Marine Scotland webpages.

Seal predation at marine fish farms remains a significant problem for the sector. Their presence around fish farms may also have an impact on the health and welfare of farmed fish and may make them more susceptible to infection, or less able to cope with external treatments e.g., for sea lice, due to increased physical stress. Over the past year SAWC have been investigating the impact of ADDs on cetaceans and other non-target species. They are also considering the impact of seals on the welfare of farmed fish, and whether the balance of harms and benefits support the use of ADDs in Scottish aquaculture. The report is due before the end of 2022.

Animal welfare research

The Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme 2022-2027 started on 1st April. This includes several areas of research on animal welfare topics, mostly at SRUC:

-Precision livestock tools to improve sheep welfare: early detection of sheep scab, roundworm, mastitis. (Moredun Research Institute)

-Practical on-farm solutions for welfare and sustainability: solutions to chronic problems - evaluation of Precision Livestock Farming approaches for early warning of behaviour problems in pigs and diseases in sheep; evaluation of alternatives to farrowing crate systems; improving monitoring of nutritional management of cattle and sheep; reducing pain associated with management procedures (tail-docking, drying off); mother-offspring contact in dairy systems; male dairy calves in the value chain

-Practical on-farm solutions for positive welfare - environmental enrichment: understanding stakeholder views; inventory of enrichments for varied species and their effectiveness; assess use of enrichments; assess biological benefits of enrichment; propose actions to increase effectiveness

-EU Exit – challenges and opportunities for animal welfare; evaluate differences in welfare standards between Scotland and potential trading partners; provide evidence in support of maintaining or improving standards; monitor emerging areas and recommend policy priorities; evaluate, update, and standardise welfare measurement methods

-Solutions to improve laying hen welfare: decreasing the incidence and/or severity of feather pecking in non-cage systems; ways of reducing the prevalence of keel bone fractures; alternative free-range systems for good hen welfare during temporary housing orders

-Influencing human behaviour to improve animal welfare: Case studies of exploring why tail-docking, castration and disbudding persist; body condition scoring in beef suckler cattle; the effect of Qualitative Behavioural Assessment on stockperson behaviour; educational interventions to enhance pig stockperson behaviour; farmer mental health and its interaction with animal welfare; the framing of animal welfare in communicating to stakeholders; livestock-worrying and responsible dog ownership; public demand for animal welfare.

The Scottish Government also commissioned a literature review from SRUC on welfare issues regarding exotic animals being kept as pets to inform the current SAWC working group investigation into this area.

Scottish Government officials continue to advise on commissioning and monitoring of a number of animal welfare projects funded by Defra from a GB research requirements budget.

Advisory activity

SRUC veterinary services provide a specific farm animal welfare advisory service funded by Scottish Government. This delivers advice to Scottish Government officials on existing and potential welfare problems, promotes awareness of animal welfare requirements to livestock keepers and livestock sector organisations through publicity campaigns and supports enforcement agencies in investigating suspected cruelty/crimes involving livestock and wildlife.



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