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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
New animal bill targets cruelty
Actor Tony Roper and Ross Finnie MSP
Actor Tony Roper (left) joined Ross Finnie to back the bill
Animal cruelty offences against pets will carry six month jail terms and fines of up to 5,000, under new welfare legislation.

The Animal Health and Welfare Bill, introduced on Thursday, places a "duty of care" on people who own animals.

Offering animals, including goldfish, as prizes will be stopped and the docking of dogs' tails will be banned.

Under the present law, animal welfare officers cannot intervene unless an animal has actually suffered cruelty.

The bill allows earlier action and if owners do not respond to warnings that they are not looking after their animals properly, they can be taken away from them.

The new bill will enable inspectors to act before an animal suffers and will save animals' lives
Supt Mike Flynn

The punishment for organising a dog fight is also to be increased to 20,000 or a year in jail.

The legislation also raises the age for buying a pet from 12 to 16.

The minister whose responsibility includes animal welfare, Ross Finnie, said: "The bill will require animal owners to care for their animals properly."

He added: "The bill also includes measures to reduce the risk of future disease outbreaks and enhance the executive's ability to respond where they emerge.

Goldfish will no longer be offered as prizes

"This will help to protect animal and public health, as well as the rural economy."

These include extra power of slaughter and the power to inspect vehicles.

Superintendent Mike Flynn, of the SSPCA, said: "Scottish SPCA inspectors have frequently been in the position of having to walk away from animals knowing they were in a vulnerable position.

"The new bill will enable inspectors to act before an animal suffers and will save animals' lives."

So far this year the organisation has reported 75 people to the procurator fiscal for animal cruelty.

Actor and SSPCA patron Tony Roper said: "There is a small percentage of people who treat animals just like a commodity of some kind, it's a bit of flotsam to be thrown about, used at will, and those are the people this bill is really going after."

Many lobsters are killed by being boiled alive ... but the Scottish Executive has left them without any legal protection
Ross Minett
Advocates for Animals

However, Advocates for Animals is furious that lobsters and crabs have not been classified as animals by the Scottish Executive - so they can still be boiled alive.

The group said the reforms did not go far enough to protect the 750,000 lobsters and 15 million crabs caught each year in Scotland.

Director Ross Minett, said: "Advocates is extremely disappointed that lobsters, crabs and octopuses are not included in the bill's definition of 'animal'.

"Many lobsters are killed by being boiled alive. This is totally unacceptable in today's compassionate world.

Animal slaughter

"There is strong scientific evidence that these animals can experience pain and suffering.

"As a result, New Zealand and parts of Australia include these creatures in their animal protection legislation but the Scottish Executive has left them without any legal protection."

Advocates' political adviser, Peter Stevenson, said that although the group supported most of the reforms it "strongly opposed" the executive's proposal to give itself unfettered new powers to slaughter animals to control disease outbreaks.

Mr Stevenson said this could lead not just to the mass slaughter of farmed animals, as happened during the foot-and-mouth crisis, but to the slaughter of pet birds and even dogs and cats.

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