PLANS to strengthen animal welfare laws could see offenders jailed for up to five years.

The Scottish Government wants to increase the maximum prison penalty for crimes of cruelty from 12 months and give courts the power to impose unlimited fines.
Ministers are seeking the public’s views on its planned amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

The legal changes would also allow quicker rehoming of animals removed by welfare inspectors.

Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “The Scottish Government is taking bold steps to try to further improve the welfare of our animals and we believe the best way to do that is to challenge and change negative attitudes and behaviour.

“As such, I hope that strengthening these powers will send a strong message that such abhorrent behaviour will not be tolerated in a modern, progressive and responsible society.”

Ms Gougeon said it is vital to gather feedback from relevant stakeholders, including those with experience of animal cruelty issues, before introducing new legislation.

The plans have been welcomed by the Dogs Trust charity.

A spokesperson said: “We are delighted by the Scottish Government’s proposal to increase the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences from a paltry 12 months to five years in prison.

“Animal cruelty in any form is abhorrent and inexcusable and these proposals reflect the seriousness of these offences that are sadly carried out on a daily basis.

“We hope that increased sentences, coupled with more robust enforcement, will act as a deterrent to criminals and protect more dogs from harm.

“These measures and the proposal for expediting the rehoming or selling on of dogs being detained in kennels during legal proceedings are important steps in striving for the highest standards of animal welfare in Scotland and we look forward to working with the government on this issue.”

To take part in the consultation, visit here.