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New Scottish Animal Welfare Act becomes law

LOCAL AUTHORITIES in Scotland can now remove animals from their owners and keepers if they believe they are at risk of suffering following enactment last week of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act.

The new law introduces a duty of care on anyone responsible for animals, and stiffer penalties of up to 12 months in prison and a £20,000 fine for people found guilty of animal abuse.

The legislation has been discussed over many months by the Scottish Assembly and at times proved very controversial. One such issue was the complete ban on the docking of dogs’ tails without any exemption for working dogs, similar to that built into the Westminster Government’s own Animal Welfare Bill.

Libby Anderson, Policy Director of the Edinburgh-based animal welfare charity Advocates for Animals, broadly welcomed the new Act, saying: ‘We must recognise the significance of the change in animal welfare legislation, as of today. From now on anyone in Scotland who has responsibility for an animal will have to ensure that it enjoys a reasonable standard of welfare.

Enforcement agencies will not have to wait for evidence of an animal's suffering before they can step in. That was always too late.

‘Let us hope that the new obligation on animal owners will mean no more ponies left neglected in fields, no more dogs tied up outside for days on end, and no more animals kept in conditions which are barely tolerable.’

The anti-puppy farming organisation WAG also welcomed the new Act and were delighted that a number of their submissions regarding a crackdown on puppy farming been taken up. But the group fear that unless the provisions within the Act are carried out, the situation will not improve and dogs bred in such farm will continue to suffer.

Ken McKie, Secretary of WAG said: ‘Whilst we are delighted that a new piece of legislation is now on enacted we still have reservations. Many of those charged with enforcing the current legislations fail miserably in this task and sad to say it will still be down to them to enforce the new legislation. How will things improve? We are anxious on this.

‘The Scottish SPCA has mentioned that this Act gives them new powers to deal with puppy farms. However, they and other authorities have always had powers to tackle these problems. But sadly, they failed to do so. The situation is out of control. Not even local authorities can tell you how many legitimate or unlicensed premises are out there. On numerous occasions we have raised issues with premises where the law is being broken but yet those who are to enforce the law say ‘it wasn’t too bad!’

‘If you speed over 30 mph you are rightly charged with this. Did this mean ‘it wasn’t too bad’ if you were only doing 35mph? If it is illegal then it is illegal and we will monitor and report all instances where the legislation is not enforced. WAG will never accept ‘it wasn’t too bad’!’