Scotland led the way in addressing animal welfare concerns when the Scottish Parliament banned fox hunting in 2002. However, the SNP Government recognised concerns about the legislation and asked the Rt Hon Lord Bonomy to review whether the law was providing sufficient protection for our wild animals. After consulting on potential improvements to the law following this review, we will now bring forward a Bill to consider the reform of the 2002 Act in the interests of furthering the welfare of wild mammals.
In addition to progressing the majority of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations, the Bill will seek to limit the number of dogs that can be deployed against wild mammals to two and contain provision to discourage the establishment in Scotland of the practice known as “trail hunting” as this poses significant risks for wild mammals.
It is important that we do not undermine the need for legitimate pest control, particularly in upland areas, so we will also explore the possibility of a new licensing scheme which could enable the use of more than two dogs where it is deemed necessary for that purpose.
We have introduced new legislation to strengthen animal cruelty penalties and improve powers for front-line enforcement agencies. The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill will increase the maximum penalties for the most serious animal welfare and wildlife offences to five years imprisonment and increase the maximum penalties for various other offences.
The Bill will also implement ‘Finn’s Law’ giving extra protection to service animals, and provide a process to allow animals that have been taken into possession on welfare grounds to be sold or rehomed quickly without the need for a court order.With regard to farm animals, we will introduce legislation to require abattoirs to record CCTV in all areas where live animals are present – ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare in abattoirs.
We have also passed legislation – the first of its kind in the UK – to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, demonstrating our commitment to improving animal wellbeing.
In the face of the disruption and confusion caused by the Brexit process, we will take appropriate action to safeguard animal welfare standard in Scotland.