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Hopes for saving Scottish wildcat rest on captive breeding plan

Conservationists say about 80 creatures in zoos and private collections hold key to re-establishment of the endangered species

A Scottish wildcat in the snow.
The Scottish wildcat is listed as critically endangered. Photograph: National Trust for Scotland/PA 

Fewer than 100 Scottish wildcats are now believed to exist in the wild, say leading experts, with no evidence of any decent sized populations anywhere in the country.

While it had been hoped up to 300 may still survive, recent extensive monitoring suggests a lower figure, with individuals or small groups clinging on in isolated and fragmented pockets.

Hopes for saving the species, often referred to as the “tiger of the Highlands”, now largely rest on captive breeding and rewilding, said conservationists, who are working with experts who successfully brought the Iberian lynx back from the brink in Spain and Portugal.

About 80 captive wildcats in zoos, wildlife parks and private collections around the UK now hold the key to the successful re-establishment of viable populations of the muscular brown and black-striped cat, which resembles a domestic tabby.

Genetic testing of all those captive cats was completed in October. Data is now being fed into a new molecular stud book, similar to that used for the giant panda, which will determine which captive cats are related and which are best matched for breeding.

Once the stud book is operational, in the coming months, it will help establish a quantity of the highest quality genetically diverse cats. Mixed with genes from cats already in the wild, through artificial insemination or through capture of the most vulnerable cats, it will produce a population of wildcats suitable for release into the wild.

It is hoped the first trial releases will happen within five years.

The Scottish wildcat is listed as critically endangered. “Next is extinct in the wild and the next is extinct full stop,” said David Barclay, who manages the conservation breeding programme at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, one of several agencies involved in the Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) conservation plan, backed by Scottish National Heritage.

The main threat has been hybridisation – breeding with feral or domestic cats. Those in the wild tend to have less gene purity than captive cats not exposed to hybridisation.

“The population of wildcats estimated in the wild is horribly low,” said Barclay. One estimate, within the last five years, put the number between 100-300. “To be honest, I think it is under 100,” said Barclay.

Recent camera trap monitoring of six priority sites, thought to be ideal wildcat habitat, revealed just 19 possible cats out of 200,000 images, said Vicky Burns of the SWA.

Captive cats selected for possible release will be transferred to special conservation breeding enclosures. A prototype is currently being tested at the Highland wildlife park within the Cairngorms national park. Placed at least half a mile from the nearest paths, out of view of the public, these large enclosures will gradually allow the cats to be rewilded.

Pairing wild cats with captive cats will introduce wild behaviour, and the gradual introduction of live prey will trigger instinct and perfect skills, it is hoped. Human contact will be at an absolute minimum, with the cats spending up to two years in the enclosures, and their kittens better equipped for wilderness survival.

The breeding plan is not without its critics, who claim capturing wildcats and introducing them to captive cats will kill off the wild population.

Barclay said there was a lack of understanding about the project, and the facts spoke for themselves.

No wildcats would be captured in the six priority areas for fear of harming any populations there. Instead, semen would be taken from adult males. In less hospitable areas, where an isolated cat might be spotted on private land, it made sense to remove it.

“If there is a wildcat just clinging on, surrounded by feral cats, and at high risk from other issues, we want to bring it into captivity, wrap it up in cotton wool and for it to be beneficial to the captive population and a source for further animals that can be released in future,” he said.

“Without the safety net of the captive population, and the semen samples stored, then the future of wildcats is incredibly bleak. I honestly think these insurance policies are the only ones that are going to save the species.”

Along with the planned releases, SWA is undertaking a vast programme neutering feral cats in the priority areas. This would continue. There is evidence from Europe that once a sizable wildcat population is established – perhaps 40 or 50 cats – feral cats stay away, thus reducing future risk of hybridisation.

Another measure is exploring a change in Scottish legislation. Dogs must now have microchips, so one option would be to extend that to domestic cats.

Saving the wildcat will not be cheap. There is Scottish government and lottery funding of £2.5m over five years for initial research and rewilding, but costs will be ongoing. The hope is it will boost local economies and bring in tourist pounds, as well as put Scotland on the global map as a leader in conservation.

“As a country we want to be able to say we care about our landscape, we care about our environment, about the diversity. We do want to conserve our native species, we don’t want to have a country a bit like Australia that has been overrun with no native animals,” said Barclay.

“When we make the decision we don’t really care about our wildlife, or we don’t want to do that project because it is too controversial or it costs too much money, then we are bordering on giving up on the environment in Scotland,” he said.

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/26/hopes-for-saving-scottish-wildcat-rest-on-captive-breeding-plan

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Campaigners call for end to Boxing Day hunts

HoundsThe law allows foxes to be flushed out by dogs but not killed by them

Animal-rights groups want the Scottish government to make this year’s Boxing Day hunts the last to take place.

The plea by the League Against Cruel Sports and OneKind comes after a review by Lord Bonomy who said fox hunting laws should be changed.

He concluded that the current rules were “unduly complicated”.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said Lord Bonomy’s findings were being considered “carefully” and would be responded to early in 2017.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance, which represents hunts, accused LACS of “peddling lies” about foxhunting in Scotland.

Boxing Day is a traditional time to hold hunts in the UK with the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance claiming that more than 200,000 people attend such events.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 saw fox hunting with dogs banned.

The law stated that a person who deliberately hunted a wild mammal with a dog was committing an offence.

An exception was made when dogs can be used to stalk or flush out a fox to be shot in the interests of pest control, protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.

That prompted mounted hunts in Scotland to be offered to farmers, landowners and estate managers as a form of pest or fox control.

Roseanna CunninghamEnvironment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said a response to Lord Bonomy’s findings would be made in early 2017

Lord Bonomy’s report concluded there were grounds to suspect “there may be occasions when hunting, which does not fall within one of the exceptions, does take place” and recommended further clarification of the law as well as independent hunt monitors.

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, believed the “ball is now firmly in the Scottish government’s court”.

He added “Public opinion in Scotland wants to see fox hunting banned, the government thought they had banned it, but as our evidence, Lord Bonomy and Police Scotland have revealed, hunts are running a coach and horses through the current legislation.

“In short, the law isn’t fit for purpose and, in keeping with the commitments made by the first minister to strengthen the law if it were necessary, we look to the government to do that by November 2017 – in time to stop next year’s hunting season.”

‘Response due’

The organisation said nearly 10,000 people had signed an online petition calling for Ms Cunningham to take speedy action.

Harry Huyton, director of OneKind, echoed Mr Marsland’s plea and asked the Scottish government to “act as early as possible in 2017”.

Ms Cunningham said the Holyrood administration recognised concerns around the current legislation and that was why Lord Bonomy was asked to carry out the review.

She added: “Back in 2002, Scotland led the way in addressing animal-welfare concerns and we remain committed to ensuring the highest levels of welfare for our wild animals.

“We will now carefully consider the findings with a view to responding early in 2017.

“Any ensuing proposals for legislative change will be subject to the normal consultation processes.”

The Scottish Countryside Alliance said the Bonomy review was “absolutely supportive” of the principle of using packs of hounds to flush to guns.

Its director, Jamie Stewart, said: “The League Against Cruel Sports team should try reading the review before commenting on it. Just because the proposals they made have been so comprehensively rejected is no excuse for so seriously misrepresenting the review.

“I find Mr Marsland’s tactics hugely disrespectful to Lord Bonomy and his team. LACS are obviously in disagreement with his recommendations to the Scottish government and have taken to paying for propaganda to try and influence the mind of the cabinet secretary and members of the Scottish parliament.

“Mr Marsland continues to peddle LACS lies over the timeline of events and the contents of his heavily edited footage, which despite drawing on hundreds of hours of secretly filmed footage, failed to show any illegal action.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-38431942

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Fort William care home raises funds for dog William’s op

William, dog at Invernevis House

A rescued dog that provides companionship at a care home is to have a hip operation paid for by residents and staff.

William first arrived at Invernevis House in Fort William earlier this year.

He had previously been found neglected in Cyprus by a couple from Keith in Moray who were visiting the island.

Residents and staff at NHS Highland-run Invernevis House have raised £8,000 for the operation.

William, who is five, is set to have his operation in February.

However, he needs to be clear of an ongoing infection for at least a month before it can take place.

Invernevis House manager Kit Cameron said: “William is a huge favourite with the residents here and puts a smile on everyone’s face.

“However, it hasn’t always been a life full of love for William.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-38396591

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The polarising fox hunting debate

Written by Kate Shannon on 13 December 2016 in Inside Politics for Holyrood.com

A recent review of fox hunting has reopened the debate around this controversial and divisive topic

Fox

A fox – Image credit: Pixabay

Few subjects are as polarising as fox hunting.

Just over a year ago, Lord Bonomy embarked on a review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, with a remit to see whether the legislation was providing a sufficient level of protection for Scotland’s wild creatures, while at the same time allowing for effective and humane control.

Almost 300 submissions were received and Bonomy published his findings on 21 November.

The report said Scotland’s “unduly complicated” fox hunting laws should be changed to make prosecutions easier.

The 2002 Act banned hunting foxes with hounds, however, there have not been any successful prosecutions since –  with police claiming the legislation is “unworkable”.

The review also suggested introducing independent monitors to randomly check on the activities of hunts.

At the moment, dogs can still be used to flush out foxes and chase them towards the hunts, where the foxes are then shot.

The report followed just days after calls by two animal rights charities, OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports, for the fox-hunting ban to be strengthened.

They claimed evidence was found that a fox had been killed by dogs at a Lanarkshire hunt last month.

A post-mortem on the animal by SAC Consulting: Veterinary Services (SACCVS) found “severe trauma consistent with that caused by a dog or dogs”.

And last month Police Scotland called the current hunting legislation “unworkable” because of the number of exceptions and loopholes.

Welcoming the review’s findings, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “The Scottish Government recognised concerns about whether the legislation on fox hunting is working properly – that is why we asked Lord Bonomy to carry out this detailed work.

Back in 2002, Scotland led the way in addressing animal welfare concerns and we remain committed to ensuring the highest levels of welfare for our wild animals.

“We will now carefully consider the findings, with a view to responding in 2017. Any ensuing proposals for legislative change will be subject to the proper consultation processes.”

Robbie Marsland, the director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland, said Bonomy’s “robust and detailed examination clearly shows…that he agrees with us and Police Scotland that improvements are essential if it is to stand any chance of fulfilling its purpose of protecting wild animals”.

He added: “The ball is now firmly in the Scottish Government’s court. Public opinion in Scotland wants to see fox hunting banned, the Government thought they had banned it and now Lord Bonomy and Police Scotland reveal that the hunts are running a coach and horses through the legislation.

“In short, the law isn’t fit for purpose and, in keeping with the commitments made by the First Minister to strengthen the law if it were necessary, we look to the Government to strengthen the law before the end of the current fox-hunting season in March 2017.”

Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance also welcomed publication of the review.

Scottish Countryside Alliance director Jamie Stewart said: “We are pleased that the inquiry has recognised the importance of gun packs for fox control and has rejected unjustified calls for further restrictions.

“In particular, we are pleased that Lord Bonomy makes so clear the important role that gun packs play in managing the fox population and that any restriction on their activity could ‘seriously compromise effective pest control in the country’.

“Whilst we do not agree that there is a significant problem with the enforcement of the current legislation, and note that as recently as January 2016, Police Scotland confirmed to MSPs that there ‘is no evidence to suggest that the mounted foxhound packs that exist are acting outwith the legislation that is in place at the moment’, gun packs have always been very happy to work closely with the authorities.

“We therefore look forward to working with statutory bodies in the development of a separate code of practice for control activities as recommend by the inquiry.

“Given the recognition in the report of the importance of the use of gun packs in fox control, it is vitally important that any changes to the legislation should not undermine their operation.

“Any such changes to the law should facilitate a return to the settled and agreed position that had been in place since the Act was passed in 2002.”

While the debate on fox hunting remains heated, the issue has also become a loaded political topic.

In July last year, the UK Government was forced to withdraw its attempts to relax the fox hunting ban in England and Wales after the SNP vowed to vote against the change.

The party said it would break with tradition and vote on an issue which doesn’t affect Scotland “to remind the Government how slender their majority is”.

This came months after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon used fox hunting as an example of where the party would not vote.

However, speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, she said she had changed her mind, given public opinion across the UK against the relaxation of the ban and the opportunity to put pressure on the Government’s 12-seat majority.

“Since the election, David Cameron’s government has shown very little respect to the mandate that Scottish MPs have.

“On the Scotland Bill, reasonable amendments backed by the overwhelming majority of Scottish MPs have been voted down,” she said.

“So, I think if there’s an opportunity – as there appears to be here – and on an issue where David Cameron appears to be out of touch with majority English opinion as well, to actually remind the Government how slender their majority is.”

The UK Government proposals would have seen fox hunting in England and Wales given parity in Scotland, where an unlimited number of dogs can be used to flush out a fox so that a farmer or landowner can shoot it.

Explaining the decision to vote against, MP Angus Robertson said: “We totally oppose fox hunting, and when there are moves in the Scottish Parliament to review whether the existing Scottish ban is strong enough, it is in the Scottish interest to maintain the existing ban in England and Wales for Holyrood to consider.”

At the time, those opposed to the SNP branded Sturgeon “hypocritical” and “shameless” and the UK Government said it would reintroduce the subject once the English votes for English laws (EVEL) process was introduced.

Meanwhile, EVEL itself remains a contentious issue – in January Scots MPs were prevented from voting for the first time under the EVEL parliamentary mechanism.

In unprecedented scenes, a ‘grand committee’ of English and Welsh MPs debated housing, which in Scotland is devolved to Holyrood, and signs were posted in the voting lobbies barring MPs from Scotland from voting.

The “consent motion” for England and Wales was agreed without a division.

Despite the fact SNP MPs previously refused to vote on matters which didn’t affect Scotland anyway, Pete Wishart MP said the mechanism was “driving Scotland out of the UK”.

A month later, Westminster’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee warned that since the scheme has scant support, it would likely be overridden “as soon as there is a non-Conservative majority” in the Commons.

The committee also expressed concerns about the “complexity and workability” of the rules.

At this stage, Westminster has not revisited the fox hunting debate in the light of the new EVEL process but if it did then the SNP would no longer be able to use this particular, controversial issue to make their point.

Back in Scotland, despite both sides of the fox hunting debate welcoming Lord Bonomy’s findings, it is doubtful that changes to legislation will be plain sailing.

Ministers will wait until next year to decide on the next steps for the act and it will probably be at this stage – when details are hammered out – that this rare unity disappears.

Article taken from: https://www.holyrood.com/articles/inside-politics/

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ZSL’s new research shows that vaccination has no negative effects

Statement from ZSL, 9th December 2016:

Brian May’s Save Me Trust calls for an evaluation of the role of badger vaccination, alongside a proper review of the effectiveness, if any, of badger culls on bovine TB in cattle.

It also draws attention to the fact that it is no longer possible to believe that badgers are the main cause of the spread of the disease, or even a significant component of its transmission. The principal mechanism of reinfection now being confirmed to be in undetected, infectious cattle in the herds themselves.

In the latest research revealed today on Bovine TB management, science has once again put an end to speculation. As ZSL’s new paper published today – ‘Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin’.

Two years ago, a cattle vet in Devon speculated that vaccinating badgers might disrupt their behaviour, thus spreading TB to new areas. His ideas were based on no evidence at all; nevertheless they were repeated in the media as though they were facts, undermining support for badger vaccination.

Research published today by the Zoological Society of London confirms that vaccination, in fact, has no detectable effect on badger behaviour. In the ZSL experiment, badgers were trapped, vaccinated and released, and were subsequently tracked with GPS collars. It was found that they travelled no further than those which had not been vaccinated.

This is encouraging news for badgers and cattle alike. ZSL’s research confirms that vaccination does not have the same potential to increase the incidence of TB in cattle as culling.  Culling DOES disrupt badger behaviour and, while it’s now also clear that badgers are at most a very small part of the re-infection of cattle herds, scientists believe that the Government’s present policy of culling badgers is likely to make matters worse.

ZSL’s new research shows that vaccination has no negative effects. Undisrupted, ‘normal’ badger behaviour sees badgers in tightly defined communities, which give the best opportunity for vaccination to be effective. Since vaccination is also cheaper and more publicly acceptable, the choice between vaccination and culling should be straightforward.

Bovine TB is a major problem for British cattle farmers, so TB control efforts must be based on the best available evidence. Hopefully, this new research will encourage proper studies of the role that vaccination could play in TB control.

However, to put this in perspective, recent evidence confirms the fact that transmission of TB has very little to do with badgers. At least 96 per cent of re-infection is due to undetected carriers of the bTB Micobacterium in the herd. Current Government policy forces farmers to rely on the infamous skin test to detect and remove infected cows, a course of action which is demonstrably failing. Only an enhanced testing regime can give hope to farmers who are, at present, locked in a hopeless situation.

We must review all the new available science and remove this expensive, ill fated and ineffective policy. It doesn’t support the science, the badgers, the cattle or the farmers.

Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1527401/

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Hotel staff ‘beat kitten to death with rolling pin’ after it got trapped in their kitchen and peed

A hotel has been accused of shoving a cat in a plastic bag before beating it to death with a rolling pin after it got trapped in their kitchen.

Bosses at the Royal Oak Hotel in Betwys-y-Coed, north Wales, admitted killing the kitten, but insisted in a now-deleted Facebook status that it was ‘humanely euthanised’.

However, they have refused to elaborate on how the animal met its end.

It has been claimed by many in the area that a young stray cat went into the kitchen and ate a bit of food. The cat reportedly became scared after getting trapped inside and peed in the kitchen.

After finding the cat and the urine, it is then alleged that the staff put the animal into a plastic bag, bludgeoned it to death with a rolling pin and smashed its body against the wall.

The RSPCARSPCA has confirmed it is investigating the hotel over the killing of the cat.

The RSPCA confirmed that it is investigating the claims (Picture: Getty Images)
The RSPCA confirmed that it is investigating the claims (Picture: Getty Images)

Glen Evans, head of the hotel, told local newspaper the Daily Post that he didn’t believe the staff had broken the law in killing the animal.

‘In hindsight of course I wish things were dealt with differently,’ he said. ‘But unless new information comes to light, the staff have not done anything unlawful.’

Claims that the cat met a horrific end were posted on the hotel’s Facebook page, which has since been deleted. However, their separate restaurant page is still live and has been flooded with one-star reviews.

The stray cat, not pictured, was killed by hotel staff (Picture: Getty Images)
The stray cat, not pictured, was killed by hotel staff (Picture: Getty Images)

One commenter, Jan King, wrote: ‘I am appalled to have read of the sub-human way that the poor kitten was bludgeoned to death by your staff. I hope the karma police are visiting you as I type, I also hope that you do get boycotted. I for one would never, ever want to stay around your sort. Disgusting.’

Another, Sooz McLean, added: ‘There is a reason that sweet, innocent, defenceless kitten was feral – the truth is it was either abandoned by someone or was born that way.

‘Just the same as any other normal living animal he/she needed food and unfortunately ended up at your business, looking for food and maybe a kind hand to help, care for and love him/her.

‘And what did you do – you battered that kitten to death inside a bag.’

The statement posted to the hotel's now-deleted Facebook page (Picture: Facebook)
The statement posted to the hotel’s now-deleted Facebook page (Picture: Facebook)

In a statement on the Royal Oak’s now-deleted Facebook page, the hotel said: ‘It was with regret that the feral cat was humanely euthanised as lawfully provided for when dealing with any animal legally classified as vermin.

‘Having reflected upon their actions, the staff involved understand why such an incident will upset people as the destruction of any animal is regrettable no matter what the circumstances.’

A spokesman for RSPCA Cymru told Metro.co.uk: ‘We can confirm that we are investigating reports about the death of a cat in the Betws-Y-Coed area. This is an on-going investigation, and we cannot comment further at this time.

‘We urge any member of the public with information to contact our 24-hour Cruelty Line on 0300 1234 999.’

Article taken from: http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/08/hotel-staff-beat-kitten-to-death-with-rolling-pin-after-it-got-trapped-in-their-kitchen-and-peed-6308994/?ito=facebook

Related story: Betws y Coed hotel staff SACKED after feral cat death (Daily Post)

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Plan for Scotland’s first industrial puppy farm in Ayrshire met with fierce objections

Plans to create Scotland’s first industrial puppy farm have sparked outrage.

The remote Ayrshire facility would house 40 dogs in a disused stable block, churning out puppies for cash.

Still from footage of puppies huddled together in the Fivemiletown facility

But the plan has already been met with fierce objections – with the Scottish SPCA, Police Scotland and locals all preparing to slate the proposal being considered by East Ayrshire Council.

Last night, John Robins, of Animal Concern Advice Line, said: “There will be plenty of opposition to this.

“Go to any rescue centre and you will see there are more than enough puppies already in Scotland. We don’t need any more.

“Dogs are not animals that should be bred in factory-like settings.”

The proposed pup factory will be sited on a farm near Galston.

The application has been made by Hazel Hamilton who is married to a businessman linked to a massive puppy farm.

Husband Stephen Hamilton, 46, is the brother of David and Jonathan Hamilton who run the UK Dog Breeding Academy, in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone.

It doesn’t sell to the public and is claimed to be the largest licensed dog breeding establishment in the UK.

The Fivemiletown facility previously featured in a hard-hitting BBC documentary about puppy farming.

In the programme, footage from inside the rural kennels showed dozens of young dogs huddled together in disused trailers without their mothers.

The reporter claimed she found hundreds of breeding bitches in battery-farmed and “freezing” conditions at the Irish premises.

The footage was blasted by Sheila Voas, chief veterinary surgeon with the Scottish Government, who said at the time the programme was aired: “It was barbaric. It was a production line. It was using animals as a commodity.”

New Intax Farm (Chris Austin / DC Thomson)
New Intax Farm (Chris Austin / DC Thomson)

The facility’s former vet also made a number of allegations about practices at the HQ.

Mr David Bailey, a former Northern Irish government veterinarian who worked for the Hamiltons for three years, claimed David Hamilton had been reluctant to keep a log of every dog kept at the kennel.

The expert said: “It was like a production facility that you would expect to find in a bad pig-raising plant. Every animal on the premises was given an antibiotic injection every week, then we’d change the antibiotic every month because we could not control the infections.”

But the Hamiltons were furious at the documentary and complained to TV regulators Ofcom.

A solicitor for the family said that they had not broken any laws running their business.

The Hamiltons also complained they had received death threats after the programme aired.

But their complaint of “unwarranted infringement of privacy in connection with the obtaining of material included in the programme” was thrown out by the watchdog earlier this year.

There is no suggestion the planned Ayrshire farm would be run along the same lines as the large farm in Northern Ireland.

Futhermore there is absolutely no suggestion either Stephen or Hazel Hamilton have any track record of cruel behaviour to animals.

However that fact is unlikely to stem objections to the proposal from being made to East Ayrshire Council on animal welfare grounds.

SNP MSP Emma Harper, who is campaigning on the issues of puppy farms, is fearful that animal welfare practices at the Irish kennels could be replicated at the proposed new Scottish mass-breeding centre.

“My concern is the welfare of potentially hundreds of dogs,” she said.

“I don’t think a licence should be granted until a thorough investigation into this proposal is done.

“This family’s operations in Ireland have been implicated in welfare issues.”

A spokeswoman for animal welfare charity the Scottish SPCA confirmed it would be objecting to the plans.

“We will be discussing the current application with the East Ayrshire Council as a matter of urgency,” an inspector told The Sunday Post.

“We are liaising with councils across Scotland in an attempt to ensure the welfare of puppies and breeding bitches involved in the licensed and unlicensed commercial trade.”

Dr Rachel Connor, who signed an objection on behalf of the local community council, said: “Although the community council was unanimous in its opinion that there should not be a puppy farm, it’s not a planning situation.

“Nobody was in favour but we had to think about it in other ways like access and traffic in our objection.”

May Anderson, formerly of Waterside Action Group, is backing the Scottish SPCA.

She said: “Mr Hamilton put the application in his wife’s maiden name to ask for planning permission to change a barn to a building for rearing dogs. I think it’s a matter for the Scottish SPCA.”

A spokeswoman for East Ayrshire Council said: “We can confirm we have received an application for a dog breeding licence.”

She added it states a maximum of 40 breeding dogs would be kept on the site.

The plans were lodged with the council last month and will be considered at an upcoming planning meeting.

A council spokeswoman told The Sunday Post that objections to the plan are expected – including from Police Scotland.

However, she declined to reveal on what grounds police chiefs were expected to object.

Police Scotland said it couldn’t comment either. A spokeswoman said only: “We have not currently put in any objections.”

A Sunday Post reporter tried to contact Stephen and Hazel Hamilton at their farm in rural Ayrshire.

However, they refused to comment when approached on Friday evening.

Article taken from: https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/plan-for-scotlands-first-industrial-puppy-farm-in-ayrshire-spark-outrage/