New welfare measures "mixed bag" for Scotland's animals, say vets
The Scottish Government has announced a package of measures including introducing a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses and legislation to permit tail shortening for spaniels and hunt point retrievers intended for use as working dogs.
Responding, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Scottish Branch President Grace Webster said:
“We commend the Scottish Government on seizing the opportunity to improve animal welfare through the introduction of a Bill to ban of the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. While the use of wild animals in travelling circuses may not affect a great number of individual animals, it is emblematic of the way we treat all animals and we would urge the rest of the UK to follow this precedent, introduced on ethical grounds.
“However, this package of measures seems a bit of a mixed bag. Until recently Scotland also led the way on dog welfare with a complete ban on tail docking, so we are extremely disappointed at the decision to reverse this stance. We have carefully considered all the evidence and remain convinced that tail docking in dogs, even specific breeds, is detrimental to their welfare. This is a retrograde step for animal welfare in Scotland, amidst an otherwise progressive package of animal welfare measures.”
At the end of May, BVA Scottish Branch Junior Vice President Melissa Donald will be giving evidence to the Environment Committee in the Scottish Parliament ahead of a vote on whether or not to approve the change in law relating to tail docking.
Today’s announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham MSP also included the introduction of controls to restrict the use of electronic training collars and a commitment to update regulations to combat the irresponsible breeding and sale of dogs, cats and rabbits.
Gudrun Ravetz, British Veterinary Association President, added:
“Animal welfare starts right at the beginning of a pet’s life, so the focus on pet licensing and breeding regulations is welcome. We know that a third of vets are seeing puppies they believe to have been illegally imported and an increasing number of owners are buying brachycephalic or designer breeds, like Scottish fold cats; pets must be purchased with owners prioritising animal health and welfare, rather than making an impulse buy based on looks alone.
“Yet we are saddened at the shortfall on legislation around aversive training aids for dogs, which we expect will still permit the use of training collars under expert guidance. We know using fear as a training tool is not only less effective than positive reinforcement, but can take its toll on a dog’s overall welfare. Without an outright ban, we have grave concerns over how enforceability will work. This raft of measures seems to give with one hand and take away with the other.”