Those who commit the most serious animal welfare offences face a five year prison sentence under new laws published yesterday.
The legislation will increase the maximum penalties as well as implement Finn’s Law, which gives extra protection to service animals like police dogs.
Among those welcoming the Scottish Government’s publication of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill were animal rights campaigners.
The legislation increases the maximum prison sentences available for animal welfare and wildlife crimes from one year to five years.
It also removes the current time bar for bringing prosecution and removes the cap on the fines that can be levied against the most serious offenders.
The maximum fine for those convicted of severe animal cruelty offences has been set at £20,000.
The Bill will also provide a process to allow animals that have been taken into possession on welfare grounds to be sold or re-homed quickly, without the need for a court order.
In addition, Finn’s Law will prevent those who attack or injure service animals like police dogs from claiming self-defence.
The law has already been introduced in England and is named after Finn, a dog who was stabbed while pursuing a suspect with his handler PC David Wardell.
Finn sustained near fatal stab wounds to the chest and head, but only criminal damage charges could be brought against his attacker.
Bob Elliot, director the Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind, said: ‘’We are delighted to see the new Bill proposes an increase in the maximum imprisonment time and fines available for animal welfare offenders at sentencing.
“It is very welcome that the Scottish Government is responding to the growing public view that animal welfare crimes are completely unacceptable and need to be taken very seriously.”
North East Tory MSP Liam Kerr, who campaigned for Finn’s Law, said: “I would like to thank the 57,000 people who signed my petition and put their support to this important campaign.”
Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon added: “Through increasing the maximum penalties available for the most serious animal welfare and wildlife offences, we are ensuring that those who carry out these heinous acts will rightly face the full force of the law, as and where appropriate.
“We also want to see more protection given to service animals such as police dogs and horses, so we will be enacting what has become known as Finn’s law.
“I believe it is only right that animals which work to keep us safe should be given the fullest protection we can give them in return.”