New welfare measures “mixed bag” for Scotland’s animals, say vets

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.”


 Notes to editors:

  1. BVA is the national representative body for the veterinary profession in the UK. We represent the views of our 16,000 members on animal health and welfare, and veterinary policy issues to government, parliamentarians and key influencers in the UK and EU.
  2. BVA Scottish Branch represents all BVA members  in Scotland, bringing together representatives of BVA’s specialist and territorial divisions, government, academic institutions and research organisations in Scotland.
  3. The Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 10 May 2017 and is now with Parliament for consideration