Tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences and the introduction of emergency re-homing of pets will be debated by the Scottish Parliament.
MSPs will discuss whether to agree to the general principles of a new Bill increasing the maximum sentences for serious wildlife crime to five years in jail and unlimited fines.
Other measures in the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill would be to introduce Finn’s Law – named after a police dog stabbed while trying to protect his handler – into legislation to protect service animals.
Enforcement agencies would also be able to re-home animals on welfare grounds without the need for a court order.
Speaking ahead of the parliamentary debate, Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “This Bill sends a clear message that animal cruelty and wildlife crime will not be tolerated in Scotland.
“It seeks to safeguard domestic, farm and wild animals including raptors from the worst types of deliberate harm by increasing the maximum penalties for animal welfare and wildlife offences to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
“It is vital that the well-being of the animals we are seeking to protect is at the core of this new legislation.
“The Bill therefore proposes a new approach to caring for animals that have been taken into possession on welfare grounds, with new powers to allow enforcement authorities to re-home them without the need for a court order.
“I believe it is only right that the animals working to keep us safe be given the fullest protection in return.
“That is why the Bill also aims to enact what has become known as Finn’s law, making it easier to prosecute those who attack service animals such as police dogs and horses.
“Animal welfare is a subject many of us feel extremely passionately about, so I call on Members to support these important steps to further improve Scotland’s animal welfare standards.”