Bill to increase penalties for farm animal harassments by pet ‘needs changes’

LEGISLATION that aims to increase penalties for dog owners whose pets harass farm animals requires amendments before it passes, a Holyrood committee has said.

The bill, put forward by SNP MSP Emma Harper, would bring in sentences of a maximum of six months in prison, a £5000 or both, as well as the ability to seize a dog suspected of the offence. Members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee doubted if that would be a sufficient deterrent.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Scotland Bill would also, if passed by MSPs, amend the meaning of the term livestock to include other types of farmed animals such as buffalo or llamas, as well as allowing the issuing of orders preventing offenders from owning pets or taking them near farmland.

Evidence to the committee suggests the disqualification orders may be against the European Convention on Human Rights, however, and it asked how the orders would be applied in practice. The committee also voiced opposition to allowing police the power of entry and search without a warrant while investigating an offence.

The report said: “The committee has very real concerns about the powers proposed in this section of the bill and questions whether they are legally competent. It is not persuaded that powers of entry, search and seizure without a warrant are required.”

However, the committee recommended the Scottish Parliament allow its passage at stage one, as well as allocating enough time for it to be passed before next year’s election.

Convener Edward Mountain said: “In principle, the committee is supportive of new legislation. However, the evidence from stakeholders has highlighted a number of areas which the committee considers more clarity and/or amendment is needed.”

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