Did you know the Scottish SPCA has spent more than £1.5 million, which is around 10 per cent of our typical annual budget, providing temporary refuge to animals involved in court cases over the last three years?
By temporary refuge, I mean caring for animals at one of our animal rescue and rehoming centres until any legal proceedings against the owner for cruelty offences are over. It’s a huge sum to simply provide animals with basic rights such as food, water and shelter.
An unintended consequence of the success of our efforts to stamp out puppy farming (although “battery puppies” would be a more appropriate descriptor) has been to put greater pressure on our animal care teams who have the challenging task of providing often much needed veterinary treatment, behavioural training and socialisation so that when the time comes these dogs are ready to move on to their forever home.
From one investigation alone we spent £440,000 providing a safe haven to almost 50 dogs for 23 months.
Thankfully, this could all change soon.
The Programme for Government, recently unveiled at Holyrood, outlined plans to amend the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 – the law the Scottish SPCA inspectors enforce to protect animals. The changes proposed could be transformational to animal welfare in Scotland. The society has long campaigned for this much-needed reform and we are grateful to the Scottish Government for taking our expert advice on-board and for listening to the general public, who overwhelmingly back the proposals.
If the law changes, we would be able to rehome animals much more quickly. Most importantly, this would be of massive benefit to the welfare of animals caught up in court proceedings. Whilst they get amazing care and attention in our centres, it’s no substitute for a home to call their own.
The savings we make on providing temporary refuge could also be reinvested into furthering our ultimate goal of making life better for animals tomorrow than it is today. Imagine the difference it would make to our pioneering prevention through education programme, which inspires around a quarter of a million children every year.
We could inspire a greater number of people when it comes to their understanding of animal sentience and wellbeing, work together with others in supporting those positive human-animal relationships and progress targeted interventions for those who have intentionally, and unintentionally, harmed animals.
Changing the future for the better through education and inspiration.
Some additional proposals are well worth noting too.
The maximum possible custodial sentence for the most serious of animal welfare offences would increase from one year to five and/or an unlimited fine could be handed out. Prosecution is a last resort for the Scottish SPCA, but we and our supporters have long felt the punishments available to the courts have not been severe enough to act as a deterrent.
We’re also optimistic we’ll see the introduction of licensing of animal sanctuaries and rehoming centres, the ability to hand out fixed penalty notices on the spot, improved protection for service animals under “Finn’s Law” and a ban on the third party sales of puppies and kittens, commonly known as “Lucy’s Law”. All improvements that would make a massive difference.
The future is bright for animal welfare in Scotland and we are delighted to be at the heart of it.
Kirsteen Campbell, chief executive of the Scottish SPCA