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Animal Welfare (09/09/2016) (R013991)

Thank you for your e-mail of 14 August 2016 in which you requested the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA):

“In Scotland since 2008:

The number of cases reported to the Procurator Fiscal involving the unnecessary suffering of animals.

A breakdown of these with regards to whether these were taken forward by police or the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

And of these,

The number of cases subject to criminal proceedings.

The number of cases in which a decision has been made to apply an alternative to prosecution.”

Thank you also for your clarification of the request which was received on 21 August 2016:

“The information I require concerns any offence contained in Part 2 of the Act, "Animal welfare" Sections 19 to 31.”

Firstly, I should explain that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service’s case management database is a live, operating database.  It is designed to meet our business needs in relation to the processing of cases and the information within it is structured accordingly.  We do not have a separate statistical database, and hold only operational data needed for business purposes.  Where we do provide information the data provided refers to the number of charges and not the number of persons reported; one of more charge(s) may relate to the same accused person.

You have requested the total number of cases reported to COPFS involving the unnecessary suffering of animals and have clarified that you are interested in Sections 19 to 31 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2006.  I must make you aware that offences involving the unnecessary suffering of animals may also be reported under other legislation. 

I can advise in answer to your request that the total number of charges reported from financial year 2008/09 to 2015/16 is 3,208.  This figure includes charges reported by Police Scotland, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and Local Authorities.

You have additionally requested that this total figure is broken down to show the number of charges reported by Police Scotland and the SSPCA over the period and this data is contained in the following table:







In relation to these totals, you have asked for the number of cases subject to criminal proceedings and the number where an alternative to prosecution has been applied. Alternatives to prosecution are recorded on our electronic system as “direct measures” and again the data we have provided is based on charges reported and not cases:


Action Taken



Court proceedings


Direct Measure


Police Total



Court proceedings


Direct Measure














You should also be aware that there are a number of charges where no action was taken and a decision remains pending.

You can refer to the “Prosecution Policy”, accessible on the COPFS website which sets out the different alternatives to prosecution available to prosecutors.