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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May, 2005, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Cruelty bill to ban animal prizes
Starving puppy
A puppy found starved outside a restaurant
A major new bill is promising to ban giving animals as prizes in competitions and to raise the age when children can buy pets from 12 to 16.

The draft Animal Heath and Welfare Bill, announced by Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie, is part of a raft of measures to halt cruelty to animals.

Existing legislation only applies when obvious suffering is evident.

Mr Finnie wants the law to be more robust and to allow the authorities to act before cruelty intensifies.

Under the changes being proposed, reports of neglect may be enough to take animals into care.

The executive has said that a lot of the legislation on animal health and welfare is outdated.

Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie
I want animal suffering to be a thing of the past in Scotland
Ross Finnie
Rural Development Minister

It believes there should be a serious crackdown on suffering among both domestic pets and farm animals.

Currently, the age at which a child can buy a pet is 12. The draft bill suggests that the age should be increased to 16.

Speaking during a visit to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) welfare centre in Balerno, Mr Finnie said: "I want animal suffering to be a thing of the past in Scotland.

"This draft bill will put in place measures to help this happen. Introducing a duty of care means animal keepers are legally obliged to look after their animals properly and ensure they do not suffer.

'Clear message'

"Other measures, such as raising the minimum age for buying a pet and banning the giving of pets as prizes, give the clear message that owning a pet is a responsibility and commitment that must be understood and thought through."

Consultation on the bill will end on 4 July.

It is hoped a new law will stop cases like the alligator who was found in the boot of a car and the puppy left to die outside a restaurant.

Anthony Quinn, 34, of Leith, pleaded guilty last December at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for keeping an alligator.

He had been trying to sell the 4ft reptile after buying it over the internet before realising he could not care for it.

In September last year animal welfare officers were horrified to find a starved puppy outside a restaurant in Garelochhead.

The dog had been so badly treated that it had to be put down by vets after a member of the public contacted the SSPCA.

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