Justice is served: Maximum sentences for animal cruelty raised to five years in Scotland

In a momentous day for animal welfare, five-year maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences will come into force after receiving Royal Assent today. Leading animal welfare charity Battersea has praised the Scottish Government for making this historic and vital change in the law. 

Last month, MSPs across Parliament voted unanimously for the Scottish Government’s change in law under the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill that saw maximum sentences of 12 months increase to five years for the worst animal cruelty crimes – a change for which Battersea has campaigned over many years. 

Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton CBE, said: “We are thrilled with this change in the law. Battersea, alongside the Scottish SPCA, other rescue organisations and members of the public, have been campaigning for a change in the law in Scotland since 2017. This change wouldn’t have happened without everyone’s dedicated support. 

“This is the final piece of the puzzle. It’s been a very long journey to make the punishment fit the crime – it will act as a proper deterrent and protect animals from those who would abuse and mistreat them.”

Historically, there have been all too many occasions when offenders haven’t faced justice. Animals like the defenceless Staffordshire Bull Terrier who was tied to a piece of concrete and left to drown in a Lanarkshire pond in 2015 may never get the justice they deserve – but the Scottish Government and public have now ensured animal abusers will no longer get away with their crimes.

At a reception Battersea organised at the Scottish Parliament in September 2019, 61 MSPs from across the political parties signed the pledge board to show their support for the change in the law. Many other MSPs subsequently also added their voices to Battersea’s call for change, before the Bill began its way through Parliament. 

Claire continues: “The Scottish Government has now delivered their promise on tackling animal cruelty. It is now time Westminster stopped delaying and followed suit.”

Animal cruelty penalties in Scotland are now in line with many other European countries. In England and Wales, however, where the maximum punishment is the lowest in Europe at just six months, the Westminster Bill has been postponed yet again; despite the Government first pledging its support almost three years ago. 

Battersea has been calling on the Government in England and Wales to follow Scotland’s example and progress this much-needed legislation. The Bill has been published twice before but fell during the prorogation of Parliament in October 2019, and a second time when a general election was called in December. A Private Member’s Bill brought in by Chris Loder MP is currently seeking to introduce these measures, however it has been delayed until later this year for 23 October, five months after its original date for discussion in Westminster.

For more information visit battersea.org.uk/news/cruelty-sentences-raised-scotland . Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in Scotland, can be found here.

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For more information and images please contact press@battersea.org.uk 

Notes to Editors

  • The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill was first introduced in October last year and passed its third and final reading in June earlier this year. 
  • Research published by Battersea in 2017 showed that the maximum sentence of 12 months for animal cruelty was among the lowest across the whole of Europe – with only five other countries having lower sentences (including England and Wales). Both fly tipping and theft carried higher sentences. 
  • The maximum sentence for animal cruelty under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 is 12 months in Scotland, compared to three years in Germany and five years in Ireland, Latvia and Northern Ireland. 
  • Battersea launched a campaign to increase the 12-month maximum sentence in Scotland to five years in September 2017. For more information, see Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in Scotland
  • Since Battersea was founded 160 years ago, we’ve been committed to helping every dog and cat that needs us - championing their rights, loving their imperfections and expertly caring for them. Because rescue is our favourite breed.
  • We’re reliant on the generosity of the public to continue to fund our vital work helping dogs and cats and the people who care for them. Now, more than ever, we need funds to enable us to continue to be here for every dog and cat.
  • Battersea directly helps over 5,000 dogs and cats across its three centres and uses its expertise, influence, and voice to help thousands more animals all over the country and across the world.
  • To donate to Battersea, visit https://donate.battersea.org.uk.
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