Stuart McMillan MSP has welcomed the passing of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament – as it delivers increased animal cruelty penalties and new legal protections for service animals.
The Bill increases the maximum penalty for the most serious animal and wildlife crimes to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine – meaning each of these will be triable under either solemn or summary procedure, and time bars for bringing prosecutions will no longer apply after the legislation comes into force.
It also gives animal welfare enforcement agencies new powers, such as allowing animals taken into their care to be quickly rehomed without the need for a court order.
Commenting, Stuart said:
“This Bill seeks to safeguard animals from the worst types of deliberate harm by increasing the maximum penalties for animal welfare and wildlife offences to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
“People in Inverclyde will remember the brutal killing of defenceless animals at Pets Corner in Gourock in 2011, and that due to DNA evidence being found more than six months after the crime was committed, the perpetrators got off scot-free as it was time barred.
“By increasing the penalties for serious animal welfare crimes, the time bar loophole is removed, and so perpetrators will be reprimanded for their crimes – even if they’re caught months or years after the crime occurred.
“The Greenock Telegraph campaigned to have this loophole closed following the Pets Corner incident, and I have been supportive of their campaign since day one. The passing of this Bill is testament to the campaign’s efforts to improve animal welfare in Scotland and ensure that those who commit such heinous crimes are punished accordingly.
“The Bill also gives new legal protections for service animals, such as police dogs and horses, and removes a legal defence or self-defence for attacks on service animals in the course of their duties.
“This is commonly known as Finn’s Law – named after Finn, a police dog who was stabbed whilst pursuing a suspect with his handler – and gives our service animals the protection they deserve as they dedicate their lives to keeping us safe, and makes sure those who harm service animals are held accountable for their despicable crimes.”