MEEGAN Fitzharris has introduced new animal welfare legislation.
“In line with the ACT Government’s commitment to protect those without a voice of their own, I am very proud to have introduced the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2016,” Meegan said.
“The Animal Welfare Act 1992 aims to ensure the humane care and management of animals and reflect community expectations that people who keep or care for animals will ensure they are properly treated.
“Unfortunately, evidence from prosecutions indicates that animal neglect is emerging as a concerning problem in the ACT. These cases have also demonstrated that some provisions in the Act have created unintended barriers to the effective investigation, enforcement and prosecution of animal welfare offences.
“In order to achieve better animal welfare outcomes and greater consistency with equivalent national legislation, a number of changes are proposed for the Animal Welfare Act 1992.
“The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2016 will more clearly define and prohibit neglect and cruelty. This in turn will make it clearer to determine when neglect or cruelty has occurred.
“I am also introducing a new provision which states that a person in charge of an animal has a duty to care for it. Poor treatment and lack of care for an animal may not necessarily amount to neglect or cruelty, however the new provision will ensure community expectations for animals to be properly treated is reflected in the law.
“An example of where this provision may apply is in the case of a sick or injured animal which is not provided with appropriate medical treatment. A person who fails to take reasonable steps to provide for an animal’s basic needs, or who abandons their animal, may be guilty of an offence for which the maximum penalty is 100 penalty units ($15,000), imprisonment for one year, or both.”
Other key reforms include ensuring authorised officers have the powers necessary to investigate and prosecute animal welfare offences effectively and safely, and broadening the range of orders that can be made by the court to enforce the law and prevent animal neglect and cruelty.
Minister Fitzharris said the amendments will not only help facilitate the prosecution of animal neglect and cruelty offences, they will also contribute to animal welfare education and prevention so that fewer animals are in danger in the first place.
“To reduce the likelihood of prosecutions for neglect based on ignorance, community awareness initiatives will be developed in conjunction with key stakeholders to help people who have animals to understand their basic responsibilities. These include the responsibility to provide food, water and shelter; treatment for illness, disease or injury; and allowing the animal to display normal patterns of behaviour.
“Amendments to the legislation will build on the awareness and educational activities already underway particularly adherence to the Code of Practice for the Sale of Animals (Sales Code) which makes it mandatory for information about the care of any animal sold in the ACT to be provided at the point of sale.
“In addition to the Sales Code, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) has been developing specific codes of practices about the care of dogs, cats, native wildlife and other animals. These codes of practice will provide people with specific information about their animal’s care requirements which aim to improve animal welfare outcomes.”
Changes to the Animal Welfare Act 1992 have been made in consultation with key stakeholders including the RSPCA ACT, Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and the Veterinary Surgeons Board. To view the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2016 visit legislation.act.gov.au .