Almost nine in ten people in Scotland agree that the Scottish SPCA should be fully authorised to investigate wildlife crime, according to new research.
A study showed that 87 per cent of people think the animal welfare charity should have that power, while almost eight in ten (78 per cent) are concerned about wildlife crime in Scotland.
The charity said a change in legislation could result in an “overall decrease in wildlife crime” as the quality and amount of investigations undertaken would increase.
The Scottish SPCA is awaiting a final ministerial decision following the consultation regarding extending their powers to further enable them to support the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling wildlife crime.
This week the charity has written to MSPs before a ministerial decision is made explaining why they feel providing the Scottish SPCA with additional powers, to bring investigations involving wild animals into line with crimes involving other animals, could result in an overall decrease in wildlife crime in Scotland.
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The Scottish SPCA routinely reports cases to the COPFS which include a wide range of offences relating to animals using a large variety of legislation including, but not limited to, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
“While routinely investigating and reporting wildlife crime we are not afforded the full legislative powers to do so effectively.
“We are confident that a change in legislation could result in an overall decrease in wildlife crime caused by an increase in the quality and amount of investigations undertaken, which could not only deter potential offenders but may also help achieve a higher rate of conviction.”
The Scottish SPCA works in partnership with many statutory organisations including Police Scotland in some wildlife crime and numerous non-wildlife crime investigations.
Most of these cases involve serious or organised crime including dog fighting and the puppy trade.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We strongly support the Scottish SPCA’s work in protecting wild and domestic animals from cruelty and abuse.
“However granting additional legal powers to non-government organisations such as the Scottish SPCA to enter land and seize evidence raises important and complex questions about safeguards and accountability.”