Animal Protection Law Passed in Scotland to Increase Jail Term for Animal Cruelty

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The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 which came into effect on the 22nd of July, raised the punishment for animal cruelty from a jail term of up to 12 months to 5 years and an unlimited fine for the worst of animal cruelty crimes. This happened after the bill received a royal assent and finally became an Act of Parliament. By a unanimous vote in favour of the Scottish Government, the change in law was brought about under the new bill. Animal charities including and organisations, have greatly welcomed the new law. There have been campaigns in several nations for years now to increase the maximum sentence up to five years. Additionally, this law popularly referred to as the Finn’s law will provide legal protection for service animals like police dogs and horses. It removes the legal defence of self-defence for attacks on service animals in the course of their duties.

This act gave powers to animal welfare enforcement agencies, which allows them to take animals into their care and be rehomed without a prior court order. The Finns’ law is named after a service dog who was brutally injured in the course of its duties. This was done to place emphasis on the role of such service animals in protecting people in difficult circumstances. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSCPA), an organisation responsible to investigate animal cruelty and rehoming animals on welfare grounds, said that the law will positively impact both the animals and the organisation.

The animal cruelty penalties in Scotland are now at par with several other European nations. However, countries like England and Wales where the maximum punishment is as low as six months, the Westminster Bill has yet been postponed despite the Government having pledged its support almost three years ago. The Bill had been published twice before but fell during prorogation of Parliament in October 2019 and the second time when the general elections were called in December.

While various nations deal with matters of animal cruelty with utmost seriousness, many including India remain far behind in protecting their non human species. In comparison to US where animal cruelty is a federal felony now, the Indian law (The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960) provides for a meagre fine of Rs 50 and a jail term of not more than three months in case of a repeated offense. A proposal from the Central government was set to change the position in 2018 but has not been pursued since.

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