"Game-changing" new legislation has come into effect today which will transform the lives of rescue animals caught up in legal proceedings, the Scottish SPCA has said.

In a first for any country across the UK, new powers that have come in to force will enable animals taken into possession to protect their welfare to be rehomed quicker.

Previously, animals which were seized on welfare grounds without their owners signing them over would have to be kept in a rescue centre until any legal proceedings concluded.

Changes to the legislation in Scotland mean that animals seized due to welfare concerns can now be rehomed after a minimum of just three weeks without a court order.

Scotland’s animal welfare charity anticipate the reforms could reduce days spent in care in a kennel environment for such animals by over 90%.


Scottish SPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell said: “Rescue animals are taken from dire situations which should be a turning point in their lives.

"Sadly, in situations where an owner refuses to sign mistreated or neglected animals over into our care, seizure can mark the start of a long, complex process which takes months of even years of legal wrangling.

"Whilst our phenomenal, dedicated animal care teams provide first-class rehabilitation and support, a rescue centre is no substitute for a loving home and animals can deteriorate when held in such conditions for a prolonged period of time.

“The rampant expansion of the puppy trade and swell in public demand for companion animals in recent years has led to us doing ever more work to tackle low-welfare animal breeders and dealers and this legislation will allow us to move these animals on quickly. Not only will this benefit their welfare, it will free up critical space in our rescue centres for more animals in need.”

"We are the first place in the UK to introduce such reforms and it will transform the lives of tens of thousands of rescue animals for years to come.”

In 2020, temporary refuge dogs spent an average of 203 days living in a kennel environment. 

HeraldScotland: DarcyDarcy

One such dog was Darcy who was removed from a puppy farm with 44 other dogs. She was pregnant and one of her pups didn’t survive.

The case took the best part of two years to conclude, leaving the Scottish SPCA with a bill of over £440,000 to care for all of the dogs.

While, Paloma the horse was seized by a Scottish SPCA inspector because she was in terrible condition, she overgrown feet and was covered in sores because her body was riddled with lice. Worst of all, she was pregnant whilst in this state.

Under the care of the Scottish SPCA, Paloma gave birth to baby Beau, but they had to wait over 500 days to be rehomed because they were part of a court case.

HeraldScotland: Paloma when she was found by the SSPCAPaloma when she was found by the SSPCA

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “We take animal welfare extremely seriously and are determined to have the highest possible standards for all animals in Scotland.

“I am very pleased that these new powers have come into effect and have been strongly welcomed by animal welfare organisations.

"The new procedure to quickly rehome animals taken into possession to protect their welfare can now be used by authorised bodies including local authorities and the Scottish SPCA, who do so much invaluable front-line work in a wide variety of extremely difficult situations to protect animals across Scotland.

“This new procedure should significantly improve the way authorised bodies are able to intervene to protect animals at risk of suffering without those animals then having to be held for unnecessarily prolonged periods, which will be an important step forwards for animal welfare overall.”