A TELE campaign backed by thousands of our readers after the horrific Pets' Corner slaughter is now on course to bring about a brand new animal protection law for the whole of Scotland.

Over 5,000 of you responded to our Justice for Pets crusade after we told how a legal loophole let a thug suspected of mercilessly killing defenceless creatures at the Gourock small animals zoo off the hook.

Now the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill — established after we delivered our bulging petition to Holyrood — has passed its first stage of passage through the Scottish Parliament.

We revealed how police who investigated the 2011 Pets' Corner outrage found DNA evidence in 2013 directly linking a then 18-year-old man to the offence, and arrested him.

But prosecutors were powerless to take the case any further because the breakthrough came more than six months after the commission of the crime.

The new legislation is now primed to extend the time-bar for catching and prosecuting twisted animal abusers and killers to three years.

A maximum prison sentence of five years and unlimited financial penalties are also contained within the Bill.

Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan — who has strongly supported the Tele's campaign and spoke in a recent parliamentary debate on the new law — said: "The Scottish Government has delivered with this Bill.

"Tele readers will remember the time-bar being the loophole that allowed the alleged perpetrator to walk free.

"There are still two stages of the process to go until the Bill completes its passage through parliament but well done to the Greenock Telegraph for the campaign and well done to everyone who supported it."

The Pets' Corner suspect was accused of bludgeoning helpless creatures to death with a golf club while his dog — described as 'large and powerful' — crushed others, including tiny guinea pigs, between its jaws.

Vet and Tele columnist Neil McIntosh said afterwards: "For me, the that the sight of the dead and injured would 'remain with me for a long time' and later backed our call for the legal loophole to be closed.