Animals and Wildlife (Scotland) Bill

Closed 12 Nov 2019

Opened 10 Oct 2019

Results expected 13 Jan 2020

Feedback expected 17 Feb 2020

Overview

 

 

At its meeting on 8 October 2019, the Committee agreed its approach to consideration of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers (Scotland) Bill. The Committee agreed to issue a call for evidence and to invite key stakeholders to submit their views.

The Bill

The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill was introduced in Parliament on 30 September. The aim of the Bill is to provide further protections to the health and welfare of animals and wildlife in Scotland.  The Bill achieves this by amending the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, several pieces of wildlife legislation and the Animal Health Act 1981 to address concerns regarding current penalties, enforcement powers and the way this legislation operates in practice.

Scope of the Bill

The Bill will amend the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 in the following ways:

  • it will increase the maximum available penalties for the most serious animal welfare offences (including attacks on service animals) to a prison sentence of five years, an unlimited fine or both (and make related procedural changes including the removal of the six month time limit to bring prosecutions).
     
  • it will give Scottish Ministers a power to make regulations allowing fixed penalty notices to be used in relation to animal health and welfare offences;
     
  • it will increase the protection for service animals by making it easier to convict people of causing them unnecessary suffering (also known as “Finn’s Law”); and
     
  • it will give authorised persons (including certain inspectors and constables) new powers to transfer, sell, treat or humanely destroy animals that have been taken into possession to alleviate suffering.

The Bill also amends several pieces of legislation protecting Scotland’s wildlife in the following ways:

  • it increases the maximum available penalties for the most serious wildlife offences to a prison sentence of five years, an unlimited fine or both;
     
  • it increases the maximum penalty available for other wildlife offences remaining under summary conviction only, to a prison sentence of 12 months or a fine up to £40,000 or both; and
     
  • it extends the time allowed for prosecution under summary conviction to six months from which sufficient evidence came to the knowledge of the prosecutor, but no more than three years from the date of the offence.

What is excluded from the Bill?

A number of animal welfare issues are being pursued out-with the Bill. These are set out in correspondence from the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment and include:

The full correspondence from the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment can be found here: www.parliament.scot/animal-welfare

The key questions that the Committee has, and would welcome comment on, are—

  1. Penalties (for animal and wildlife offences)
  • Are there specific examples where existing maximum penalties have been insufficient?
  • Are the proposed maximum penalties set at the right level to act as a deterrent?
  • Do the proposals on wildlife penalties fully address the recommendations of the Poustie review on penalties?
  • Are the proposals for treatment of service animals necessary and appropriate?
  • Will the proposals have implications for how evidence is gathered and treated?
  1. New powers for enforcement agencies without a Court Order
  • Are the proposals to allow enforcement agencies to intervene without a need for a court order necessary and appropriate?
  • What impact will the proposals have on: local authorities; animal welfare agencies, sanctuaries and rehoming centres; commercial businesses, individuals and; the welfare of different types of animal?
  1. Compensation
  • Are the proposals to pay compensation to an owner necessary and appropriate?
  1. Fixed Penalty Notices
  • Will Fixed Penalty Notices act as a deterrent and how should they be used to maximise their positive impact on animal welfare?
  1. Any further issues or views not falling under the above areas?

What Happens Next

The Committee will hear from the Scottish Government Bill team on 29 October. The Committee will then hear from stakeholders on 3 and 10 December and from the Cabinet Secretary on 17 December. The Committee expects to report on the Bill by 17 February 2020.

The timetable for consideration of the Bill is:
8 Oct - Agree approach, call for views & letter to Scottish Government
10 Oct - Issue call for views
29 Oct - Evidence session 1 – Scottish Government Bill team
12 Nov - Deadline for submissions
3 Dec - Evidence session 2 – Legislative Framework
Evidence session 3 – Animal Welfare
10 Dec - Evidence session 4 – Wildlife Crime
Evidence session 5 – Prosecution and Enforcement
17 Dec - Evidence session 6 – Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
21 Jan - Consider report (day 1)
28 Jan - Consider report (day 2)
4 Feb - Agree report (day 3)
17 Feb - Deadline to publish report

Interests

  • Environment