Scottish Animal Welfare Commission: workplan - July 2021

Plan of work for the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission.

Ongoing projects

Animal sentience

Prepare a report which builds on SAWC’s previously published definition of animal sentience, which will demonstrate SAWC’s approaches and explain why cephalopods have been included in the definition.

Timescale: aim to complete within 3 months

Update: SAWC published a report on the principles of ascribing sentience to animals and a case study of the evidence for sentience in cephalopods on 26 August 2021.

Update: SAWC published a letter sent to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands regarding its opinion on a London School of Economics study on cephalopod and decapod sentience on 21 April 2022.

Exotic pets

Consider the issues (such as numbers of animals, current regulation, issues with importation and wild caught animals etc), and recommend whether there is a need for further statutory measures to regulate ownership of certain types of pets, such as a positive list, or traffic light system, and prepare a report.

Timescale: interim report within 3 months, full report within 12 months

Update: SAWC published an interim report on the issue of exotic pets in Scotland on 3 September 2021.

Wildlife welfare

The Scottish Government has a Programme for Government commitment to publish ‘a strategic approach to wildlife management that puts animal welfare at the centre while protecting public health and economic and conservation considerations. We will publish a set of principles next year (2021).’ SAWC will review the principles and consider approving these if appropriate.


Investigate and make recommendations on welfare issues associated with the management and control of wild beavers in Scotland. 

Activity currently paused while a judicial review, considering the issue of licences for killing beavers, is underway.


Identify potential welfare issues and prepare a report on the areas of initial focus – salmon farming and acoustic deterrent devices.

Timescale: report on acoustic deterrent devices within 6 months

Dog training

Review and provide an opinion on how dog trainers, groomers, dog walkers, paraclinical service providers etc can be regulated and managed. Consider whether there should be licensing of these service providers. Focus also on training practices, such as the use of electronic collars, and best practice guidance. This could also link to livestock worrying and responsible dog ownership. 

Timescale: opinion on dog training within 12 months; Opinion on groomers, dog walkers and paraclinical services to follow

Other potential areas in medium term


Following on from SAWC’s published report on glue traps, explore wider issues and other means of trapping and control, such as snares.

Ear-cropping of dogs

SAWC sent a letter to the former Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment expressing their opinion on the increasingly concerning issue. This is an issue which members will keep an eye on as it gains more public exposure.

Greyhound racing

Recent petitions on banning racing greyhounds have increased awareness of potential welfare concerns. Could be considered in future as GBGB regulation only covers licensed tracks, to address issues with unlicensed tracks, also whether regulation is effective in, for example, reducing fatalities at tracks.

Codes of practice vs industry guidance

Provide an opinion on how information can be best disseminated and its impact in practice. Role for SAWC in reviewing revised or new versions of these (alongside activities of AWC), particularly those falling under areas of particular Scottish concerns such as aquaculture.

Abattoir provision and opportunities for mobile slaughterhouses

From a Scottish perspective to review the welfare issues around numbers of abattoirs and their geographic distribution, slaughter journey times and the welfare of animals killed in mobile slaughterhouses.

Scottish wildcat reintroduction

Consider welfare aspects of microchipping domestic cats, compulsory neutering of cats and outdoor cat controls – opportunity for SAWC to review policy or provide an opinion on welfare issues at some point.

Potential areas over a longer time scale

Performing animals and animal encounters (potentially including therapy animals)

Currently stakeholder engagement activities in this area but SAWC could provide an opinion on welfare of animals used under these different types of management, including the lives of these animals when not on exhibit/in use.

Welfare of horses kept for racing

Currently no plans to look at this specifically but may respond in future if specific questions from the minister in this area.


Projects involving release of domestic or semi-domestic animals into a wild or partly wild setting raise various welfare concerns. SAWC would review these issues and provide best practice/policy advice.

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