Animal lovers rejoiced today as Scottish MEP Alyn Smith fulfilled his promise to save Flash the Scottish therapy raccoon by voting against the Invasive Alien Species Regulation.
The Regulation aims to protect native biodiversity and ecosystem services, and covers prevention, early detection and eradication, and management. While the legislation is necessary, the proposed laws had been widely criticised as covering too many, too few or the wrong species, and giving insufficient clarity on the implications for those animals brought within the scope of the laws.
Flash and other exotic animals across Scotland could have fallen foul of the regulation but, during a tense voting session in Parliament, a majority of MEPs formally objected to the terms of the Commission’s proposal and threw it back to the Commission for redrafting.
Alyn, who is a voluntary Honorary Vice-President of the Scottish SPCA, said:
“I met Flash on Friday and I have to say he’s a delightful wee soul. Seeing how folks’ faces lit up when he trotted around the room and ate grapes from their hands was a real indicator of how much value these ‘therapets’ bring to the lives of the elderly and children with special needs. The use of animals in social care is in its infancy, but it is a really encouraging preventative spend that is showing real benefits to clients across Scotland.
“Yes, we need legislation to protect native biodiversity but the proposed list was simply unfit for purpose. The Environment Committee said so, the World Wildlife Federation said so, and more to the point my constituents in Scotland said so.
“We’ve negotiated a grandfather clause to safeguard Flash and his companions, so even if this regulation somehow passes in the future, Flash is safe. Nobody will be coming to take him away, and his handler Sean – who has raised him from a baby – will be able to keep him.
“We evidently persuaded a majority of MEPs to back us up, so well done to everyone who got in touch!”
Sean Carr, Flash's handler, added:
"I am extremely grateful for the help and support from Alyn and we are over the moon with the news!
"I would also like to thank STV and the people of central Scotland for their support in our campaign to save our much-loved raccoon Flash."