New data has shown the Scottish SPCA provided temporary refuge to over 1,700 animals in 2019 at a cost of over £650,000.
Temporary refuge is when the Society cares for an animal seized on welfare grounds, often pending the result of legal proceedings. Under current law, an animal cannot be rehomed with a court order unless the owner signs it over into the care of the Scottish SPCA.
However, a new Bill proposes allowing animals in temporary refuge to be rehomed after three weeks, subject to veterinary advice without the need for a court order. The average time spent in care for an animal caught up in a court case is 203 days.
With the Scottish Parliament’s Stage Two debate of the proposed Animals and Wildlife (Scotland) Bill due to take place later today, Scotland’s national animal welfare charity has revealed the massive costs of caring for animals caught up in court cases.
Other proposed changes include increasing the maximum possible sentence for the worst acts of animal cruelty from one year to five and an unlimited fine, plus Finn’s Law, which would introduce better protections for service animals in Scotland.
Animal welfare is devolved in Scotland and the Scottish SPCA, which is entirely separate from the RSPCA who operate in England and Wales only, has previously highlighted the inconsistency in sentences for cruelty offences as a major enforcement issue.
Scottish SPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell said: “The Scottish SPCA has led calls for improvements to legislation for a number of years and we cannot overstate how transformational the new Bill could be for animal welfare in Scotland.”
“We have spent over £2m providing temporary refuge to animals since 2016 and the new legislation would bring a massive cost saving for us.
“More importantly, it would allow us to avoid leaving animals involved in legal proceedings in limbo at our rescue centres, instead being able to rehome them within a few weeks. Whilst all animals receive first class care and treatment with us, a rescue centre is no substitute for a loving home.
“Combined with the other proposed changes, such as harsher sentences for animal cruelty and wildlife crimes and better protections for service animals, we are hopeful that the Bill will deliver dramatic improvements to the lives of all animals in Scotland.”
The Scottish SPCA has continued to rescue animals in need throughout the coronavirus pandemic, attending to over 10,000 reports since lockdown restrictions came in to force on March 23.