Empathy training for animal offenders to be explored

Cat and dog web

Animal welfare charity OneKind has welcomed the announcement of new research. 

17th June 2020 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Animal welfare charity OneKind has welcomed Scottish Government plans to commission research into the value of empathy training for offenders against animals.

Rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon announced the proposals ahead of a debate on the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill this afternoon.

The six-month research project will now be put out to tender to assess whether training could be incorporated in a community sentence for some offences.

Ms Gougeon told MSPs: “While the Animals and Wildlife Bill, if passed, will empower the courts to consider longer prison sentences for the most serious crimes, which are thankfully rare, it is right that we consider a range of ways to tackle offending in this area.

“Providing opportunities to challenge and change attitudes, while ensuring an individual faces up to the impact of their crime, offers another tool in preventing reoffending and further harm to animals.”

The minister added: “We hope that this research will lead to further collaborative development of empathy or restorative approaches and enable them to be made available to the courts as an appropriate part of a community payback order, depending on the circumstances of the case.”

OneKind has lobbied for empathy training since 2014, and is currently researching overseas models to examine how similar schemes could be put in place in Scotland. The charity also highlighted the value of existing intervention projects, such as the Scottish SPCA Animal Guardians programme for children and young people who display offending behaviour towards animals.

Libby Anderson, OneKind policy adviser, said: “Most people accept that there is a positive bond between humans and animals, and yet harm and abuse still occur. We hope the research will establish that there are innovative ways of repairing that bond and promoting empathy for animals, such as restorative justice processes.

“It does not require a great stretch of the imagination to see how empathy programmes could be adapted help people develop their understanding of animals and change their behaviour. We are delighted that the minister is taking forward research into these innovative approaches, which we believe could offer real protection for animals by promoting understanding and positive attitudes.”