Animal welfare: 'New legislation in Scotland will benefit thousands of rescue animals waiting to be rehomed’, says SSPCA

The Scottish SPCA has said new legislation coming into effect on Thursday will transform the lives of rescue animals caught up in legal proceedings.

As of Thursday, authorised persons such as Scottish SPCA inspectors, the police or individuals appointed by local authorities will have the power to rehome animals which have not been signed over by their owner without the need to get a civil order to rehome animals.

Through the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020, a new section has been inserted into the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

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Scotland’s animal welfare charity anticipate the reforms could reduce days spent in care in a kennel environment for such animals by over 90%.

L-R Paloma the horse before and after being rehomed. Paloma was seized by a Scottish SPCA inspector because she was in terrible condition. She had overgrown feet and was covered in sores because her body was riddled with lice. Worst of all, she was pregnant whilst in this state. Under the care of the Scottish SPCA, Paloma gave birth to baby Beau. They were both healthy and living the best life they could in their stable and field, but they had to wait over 500 days to be rehomed because they were part of a court case. Thankfully, they were both rehomed and are now happily settled with their new owner (Photo: SSPCA).

Talking about the benefit of having this new legislation in place, Kirsteen Campbell, Scottish SPCA chief executive said: “The rampant expansion of the puppy trade and swell in public demand for companion animals in recent years has led to us doing ever more work to tackle low-welfare animal breeders and dealers and this legislation will allow us to move these animals on quickly.

"Not only will this benefit their welfare, it will free up critical space in our rescue centres for more animals in need.”

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Previously, animals which were seized on welfare grounds without their owners signing them over would have to be kept in a rescue centre until any legal proceedings, such as a civil case or criminal case, concluded.

Darcy the dog. Darcy was removed from a puppy farm with 44 other dogs. She was pregnant and one of her pups didn’t survive. The case took the best part of two years to conclude, leaving the Scottish SPCA with a bill of over £440,000 to care for all of the dogs. It was worth it in the end for Darcy. She is now in a wonderful home and is a therapet.

Keeping animals under such circumstances is known as providing ‘temporary refuge’.

Now, the Scottish SPCA and other organisations will be able to rehome animals caught up in such circumstances after just three weeks.

In 2020, temporary refuge dogs spent an average of 203 days living in a kennel environment. On average, the Scottish SPCA provides care and accommodation for approximately 1,500 temporary refuge animals each year, at an estimated cost of over £500,000 per annum.

Ms Campbell said: “Rescue animals are taken from dire situations which should be a turning point in their lives.

"Sadly, in situations where an owner refuses to sign mistreated or neglected animals over into our care, seizure can mark the start of a long, complex process which takes months of even years of legal wrangling. Whilst our phenomenal, dedicated animal care teams provide first-class rehabilitation and support, a rescue centre is no substitute for a loving home and animals can deteriorate when held in such conditions for a prolonged period of time.”

Under the new legislation, an agency which moves animals on then subsequently loses any legal proceedings would be liable for compensation to the owner.

Ms Campbell said Scotland is the first place in the UK to introduce these reforms.

She added: "I am particularly proud of the role the Scottish SPCA has played in driving this change through supplying evidence, engaging with MSPs and highlighting the emotional cost the previous temporary refuge situation has on people and animals.

"We are the first place in the UK to introduce such reforms and it will transform the lives of tens of thousands of rescue animals for years to come.”

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