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Animal charity celebrates year's achievements

By Kyle Ritchie

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The Scottish SPCA is celebrating some of its achievements over the last year which has been one of the most challenging in its 180-year history.

The animal welfare charity has shared some of its successes of 2020 including the transformation of animal welfare law, rescuing over 150 puppies from the low-welfare puppy trade and supporting people and animals affected by domestic violence.

The society was forced to adapt to continue to deliver its vital services during the pandemic. Rehoming was suspended for a short while but was reintroduced with extra safety precautions in place such as virtual home-checks and online applications.

Animal rescue officers and inspectors continued to attend emergency animal welfare calls and educational resources were made available online and delivered to those without internet access.

One of the most momentous occurrences of the year was the updating of existing animal welfare law.

The Scottish SPCA had long campaigned for these changes and this year tougher penalties for animal cruelty came in to force, which includes a maximum custodial sentence of five years and an unlimited fine. Also introduced was Finn’s Law which protects brave service animals.

Further transformational changes will be introduced over 2021 that will be of great benefit to animal welfare.

Due to the rising numbers of reports of violence in the home over the pandemic, the Scottish SPCA revived its pioneering domestic violence campaign, First Strike.

The landmark programme was first introduced in 1998 to highlight the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty. First Strike was adopted by The Links Group which consists of medical professionals, veterinary surgeons, police and many more.

The link is now widely recognised around the world. First Strike aims to assist people and animals in a domestic violence situation.

The pandemic saw an explosion in public demand for puppies which saw a huge increase in low welfare puppy dealers.

As part of Operation Delphin, a multi-agency task force set up to tackle the illegal industry, the Scottish SPCA has seized more than 150 puppies so far from raids at puppy farms and at ferry ports.

The team at the Scottish SPCA’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre has been working tirelessly over 2020, caring for more than 7000 wild animals.

One of the most memorable moments for the team was the successful rehabilitation and release of five red squirrel kits who arrived when they were just hours old after their nest was suspected to have blown from a tree.

The young squirrels recovered and were released in an area of the Highlands where conservationists are trying to increase the population of red squirrels.

The Scottish SPCA managed to rescue, rehabilitate and release five red squirrel kits.
The Scottish SPCA managed to rescue, rehabilitate and release five red squirrel kits.

Wildlife manager Steve Gray said: “Scotland is home to three quarters of the UK’s population of red squirrels. It’s estimated there are around 120,000.

“There are some incredible groups such as Scottish Wildlife Trust, Nature Scotland, Trees for Life and Red Squirrel Survival Trust that are working across the country to try and increase the number of red squirrels and we, of course, will do what we can to help.

“The main aim of the National Wildlife Rescue Centre is to rehabilitate wild animals and release them back in to the wild where they belong. This was an especially important release as it’s helping to preserve the red squirrel population in Scotland for years to come.”

Many puppies arrive at the Scottish SPCA who have been rescued from the low-welfare puppy trade. They are under-socialised with little experience outside of a kennel environment.

To help improve their behaviours in order to improve their chances of finding a forever home, the Society has created sensory gardens at its centres in Aberdeenshire and also in Glasgow and Lanarkshire. This year the charity unveiled a garden at the centre in Dunbartonshire.

Scottish SPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell said: “This really has been a year unlike any we have ever experienced. But we have adapted and evolved to ensure we have continued to be there for Scotland’s animals and people when they need us.

“From the animals we have rescued and rehomed, the young people and communities we have educated and supported, the investigations that have resulted in court cases and the transformational changes to legislation, we have achieved so much this year despite the challenges we have faced.

"I am so incredibly thankful to our team, volunteers, supporters and partners. And so proud to be part of a such a dedicated and passionate team that has continuously gone above and beyond for animal welfare.

“We are looking forward to the future and to continuing to be there in Scotland’s communities making lives better for people and animals.”

For more information on the Scottish SPCA visit www.scottishspca.org

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