Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill

update 30 October 2006

Opinions are being sought on plans to ban acts of animal mutilation in Scotland under new laws which came into force earlier this month. The consultation will cover issues including castrations, ear tagging, tail docking and branding.

It follows the introduction of the Animal Health and Welfare Act which gives animals more protection.

The consultation will be sent to about 3,000 groups with an interest in animal welfare and will close on 5 January.

The new act established a duty of care for animal owners and introduced a maximum prison sentence of 12 months and fines of up to £20,000 for anyone guilty of causing unnecessary suffering.

Animal Welfare Minister Ross Finnie said: "The consultation paper lists a number of procedures which we believe need to be permitted in order for normal farm animal husbandry to take place".

"No provision has been made to allow for the tail docking of puppies. I recognise that this has provoked a strong reaction and I would encourage those who believe they have evidence to support exemptions to take part in the consultation."

update 1 June 2006

A majority of MSPs voted for a blanket ban on 31st May, but were told that an exemption could be introduced for working dogs after consultation.

The ban has been included in the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill, which also includes increased slaughter powers to combat disease. However, such a move would have to be preceded by a statement to MSPs. Those in favour of docking have argued long and hard that docking prevents painful tail damage in later life, but MSPs including Deputy Environment Minister Rhona Brankin remain opposed to the practice, however she said exemptions could still be included in the relevant section of the bill and these would be brought before parliament.

She said: "Section 18 will not be enacted until the regulations allowing exemptions have been drafted, consulted on and approved by parliament. "This means that no final decision will be taken on the tail docking of dogs until the regulations are completed."

A majority of MSPs also backed an amendment in Environment Minister Ross Finnie's name, forbidding anyone from taking a dog out of Scotland to have the procedure carried out. Conservative MSP Ted Brocklebank criticised ministers for not backing exemptions. He said: "It beggars belief that owners of working dogs would expose them to unnecessary suffering.

Why do politicians in this place arrogantly assume that they know better than the owners of these working dogs?"

It is likely that the consultation on secondary legislation will begin in Autumn 2006. No ban of any sort will be implemented until after consultations have happened and are voted on.

Owners and breeders of all traditionally docked breeds in Scotland need to maintain a high level of lobbying of all Scottish MSP's throughout the summer.

A list of MSP's can be found at www.scottish.parliament.uk/msp/index.htm