Scottish government backs harsher punishment for animal cruelty

Animal cruelty laws should be strengthened with harsher punishments for people inflicting harm on wildlife, a government consultation has found.

A woman holds a dog rescued after being found with its ears and top of scalp cut off. Picture: AP

In response to Scottish Government proposals to impose longer sentences and bigger fines on people committing wildlife offences, 97% agree the maximum penalties should be increased.

Prison sentences being increased from six months to five years for the worst offences was backed by 94% of respondents while 85% were also in favour of raising fines from £5,000 to £40,000.

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The Scottish Government proposed the changes in the Animal Health and Welfare Amendment Bill, announced in the new Programme for Government, and held a public consultation which received more than 550 responses from people and organisations.

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Rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon said: "These consultation responses support our plans to ensure that the full weight of the law can be brought to bear on people who cause harm or cruelty to wildlife - and allow the public to have confidence that all cases can and will be dealt with appropriately.

"I feel passionately about animal welfare. Instances of harm and cruelty to wildlife - and, in the most severe cases, killing - is utterly abhorrent and completely unacceptable.

"It is only right we increase penalties to reflect the serious nature of these offences.

"I look forward to implementing new legislation at the earliest opportunity and call on stakeholders and parliament to support these steps to protect Scotland's iconic wildlife."