Scotland’s animals charity has given key support to a Scottish Government plan to increase prison sentences to five years for the most serious cases of animal cruelty.
The SSPCA has fully endorsed a range of planned measures which would also include allowing rescue centres to rehome animals seized from cruelty and neglect culprits more quickly.
The key backing follows a statement on Wednesday by Mairi Gougron MSP which outlined ways animal welfare can be improved, and follows continual lobbying by the SSPCA for tougher measures against offenders.
A consultation will now be tabled to increase the maximum available penalties for animal welfare cases, including increasing the maximum prison sentence from 12 months to five years.
Plans have also been announced to create Fixed Penalty Notices for lesser offences.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn, said: “We welcome the Minister’s update and fully support all the work the Scottish Government is carrying out to champion animal welfare in Scotland.
“We will continue to work with the Government and our partners to deliver implementation of these proposals soon as possible.
“At present, the punishment does not fit the crime, with some of the worst instances of animal cruelty we have witnessed.
“Whilst people can be banned from owning animals, increased imprisonment sentences should serve as a valuable deterrent to protect animals”.
He added: “The introduction of Fixed Penalty Notices should free up more time for inspectors in both the Scottish SPCA and local authorities to focus on the most serious cases of animal mistreatment.”
There will also be a consultation on permitting inspection bodies such as the Scottish SPCA to rehome animals removed from abusive owners much more quickly and efficiently than at present.
At the moment animals owned by someone taken to court cannot be rehomed until the case concludes.
Mike Flynn said: “Court cases can take a long time to come around and many months can pass between us seizing animals and a judgement being passed.
“Keeping these animals at a rehoming centre does not benefit anyone - it is not in the best interests of any animal to be kept in a centre long term.
“On average, it costs the Scottish SPCA £15 per dog per day in our care.
“Holding dogs that cannot be rehomed immediately puts a massive strain on our resources and it means kennel spaces are unavailable for dogs which could perhaps be rehomed more quickly.
“For a charity reliant entirely on the generosity of the public, this is a real challenge.”
As an example the charity highlights its seizure of 45 dogs from illegal seller Christopher Gorman in 2017.
It spent approximately £440,000 caring for them for almost two years, as they could not rehome them until the case was settled.
In a separate case, the SSPCA pursued a civil order to allow it to move on dozens of animals seized from an unlicensed puppy seller as they awaited the verdict on a criminal court case.
The Scottish Government has also reaffirmed its commitment to stamp out what the SSPCA sees as the barbaric puppy farming trade through the #BuyAPuppySafely campaign.
The campaign was supported by the Scottish SPCA’s own #SayNoToPuppyDealers campaign, which has been backed by more than 50 MSPs and over 8,000 members of the Scottish public.