Scotland clamps down on animal abusers as maximum sentences for animal cruelty raised to five years

18 JUNE 2020

Leading animal welfare charity Battersea has praised the Scottish Government and MSPs from across Parliament for delivering on their promise to increase maximum sentences for the worst animal cruelty offences.

The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill  first introduced in October last year, passed its third and final reading today (17 June 2020). For Battersea, this saw the culmination of many years of campaigning to raise Scotland’s maximum sentences to five years, in line with many other countries in Europe. The charity first launched its campaign to increase maximum sentencing in Scotland in 2017 and have been encouraged by the Scottish Government’s commitment to this change in law. 

This Bill will raise the maximum sentence for animal cruelty in Scotland from 12 months to five years, and will become the law after it receives Royal Assent.

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. 

Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton CBE, said: “We’re thrilled to see this Bill make such quick progress. The Scottish Government has sent out a clear message that Scotland will not tolerate the most heinous animal cruelty crimes and will respond accordingly. This change in law will protect innocent animals and act as a proper deterrent to those who abuse and mistreat animals.

“We have been campaigning for this change for a very long time alongside Scottish SPCA, other rescue organisations and many thousands of Scots who have written to their MSPs and called for this on social media. This change would not have happened without everyone’s support. Now we desperately need England and Wales to follow in the Scots’ footsteps.”

In England and Wales, 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, but earlier this week it was delayed until 23 October, five months after its original date for discussion in Westminster.

For more information visit Battersea’s report, Sentencing for Animal Cruelty in Scotland, can be found here.


For more information and images please contact 020 7627 9265 or email 

Notes to Editors

  • 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.
  • There is no time limit on how long an animal can stay at Battersea, but the average stay for a dog is 34 days and 25 days for a cat.
  • In addition to the site in South West London, Battersea also has two other centres based at Old Windsor, Berkshire and Brands Hatch, Kent.
  • To donate to Battersea, visit
  • Follow Battersea on Twitter @battersea_ or