THOSE who abuse animals could face a jail sentence of up to five years, should recent proposals be enacted in law.

The Scottish Government is seeking views on the idea of strengthening enforcement powers for animal welfare offences.

Amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 could increase the maximum penalty for the most serious cruelty offences from 12 months to five years imprisonment, and an unlimited fine.

These new tougher penalties could also apply to attacks against service animals, supporting the initiative known as Finn’s Law.

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

This would make it possible for abused or neglected animals to move to new homes immediately, instead of being subject to potentially lengthy stays in temporary facilities.

It is also proposed to enable enforcement authorities to issue fixed penalty notices, which would allow animal welfare inspectors to better apply quick and proportionate punishment for offences such as missing documents.

Speaking ahead of the consultation launch, Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “Animal welfare is a subject that I feel very passionately about so I’m delighted to be launching this consultation today.

“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 such as Scotland.

“We want to have the highest standards of welfare for our animals, but before we introduce new legislation, it’s vital that we know what relevant stakeholders - particularly those with practical experience of animal cruelty issues."

To take part in the consultation, visit: