Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2019
Consultation closes 7 February 2019
Public submissions to be emailed to [email protected]
- Full consultation page, including:
Key aims of 2019 amendment Bill
- Recognise animals are sentient beings.
- Ensure animals are shown compassion and have an acceptable quality of life.
- Prevent and deter cruelty to animals.
- Protect and promote animal welfare.
- Respond appropriately to animal welfare abuses.
Summary of 2019 amendment Bill
It is an offence to:
- fail to provide appropriate care for an animal (food, water, vet care, shelter, hygienic environment, grooming, exercise, opportunity for normal behaviour)
- abandon an animal
- be cruel to an animal (hit, kick, throw something at, injure/cause pain in any way), unless it is a horse in a race
- confine in a way that could cause injury or prevents the animal from moving naturally (such as crate that is too small for animal to stand/turn around)
- confine in a vehicle in a way that could cause injury/pain
- fail to report an injury of a mammal within two hours (such as hitting a kangaroo in a car)
- release an animal that belongs to someone else without consent
- lay poison that could injure/kill a domestic or native animal
- attach an electric shock device to an animal
- transport/contain an animal in a way that could cause injury/pain/stress
- breed female cat/dog (unless authorised under the law)
- use/display/show an unfit animal (sick/injured/distressed)
- take part in violent animal activities (live baiting, fighting, hunting, killing, injuring), or training an animal to do any of those things
- fail to comply with authorised officer order
- set a steel-jawed trap or prohibited trap, and an animal is killed or injured as a result (unless licensed)
- be the sole carer of three dogs or more in a public place:
Part 5, Section 44 (3A):
‘A person commits an offence if the person –
- Is in a public place with more than 3 dogs; and
- Is the sole carer of the dogs.’
It is not an offence to break into a vehicle (unless under the influence of alcohol or drugs) to release an animal if it appears:
- distressed, injured, or at risk of injury
- in need of emergency vet care.
- Includes pet shops, businesses that board animals, business prescribed by regulation.
- Excludes benevolent organisations (such as foster carers) and vets.
- Businesses require a licence (five-year term), with renewal application to be made up to six months before it expires, and which must be officially transferred if the business is sold.
- Business must keep accurate records, and share them with the authority if requested.
Inspector powers/seized animals
- Inspectors have the power to seize any animal (or their offspring), if they reasonably believe it is connected with an offence, or under the care of a person in contravention of animal offence orders/ownership prohibition.
- Seized animals can be:
- placed in the care of an approved entity (such as a rescue)
- returned to the person in charge with written conditions
- sold/rehomed after reasonable attempts to find and notify the owner.
- The authority can ban a person from acquiring, keeping, caring for, or controlling an animal for a set period up to six months.
- The courts can permanently ban a person from acquiring, keeping, caring for, or controlling an animal.
Assistance animals can be trained by their owner, but must:
- be accredited through either:
- a certified training organisation
- a certified independent assessor
- Domestic Animal Services
- be registered with the authority as an assistance animal
- wear identification as an assistance animal
- maintain hygiene and behaviour in public places.
It is an offence to:
- deny public access to an assistance animal access, or to charge for it
- claim an animal is an assistance animal when it is not accredited.
Previous changes (2017 and 2018)
Previous changes introduced:
- new offences, including provoking a dog attack, not having effective control of a dog in a public place (on or off lead), failing to comply with a control order, breeding without a licence, leaving the scene of an attack, not helping the victim of an attack, and not reporting a serious attack.
- a new three-tiered system to respond to nuisance (nuisance notice to prevent recurrence), harassing/menacing (control order such as fixing fencing, completing dog training, etc), or dangerous dogs (dangerous dog licence with whatever conditions required)
- new classes of attack or nuisance, with corresponding powers to act by authorities
- ownership bans and cancellations able to be imposed on dog owners who cannot demonstrate responsible dog management, care, or control.
Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission on the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. The bill contains many positive changes to better protect animals in the Australian Capital Territory, and give them a good quality of life. It is great to see the ACT Government taking a leadership role in improving the lives of animals.
However, we are extremely concerned about the proposed addition of Section 44 (3A), which states:
‘A person commits an offence if the person –
- Is in a public place with more than 3 dogs; and
- Is the sole carer of the dogs.’
We see a number of critical impact areas as a result of this proposed amendment—the worst being that it will actually have a negative impact on the quality of life of a large number of dogs in the community, and go against what the Government is trying to achieve through this bill.
This amendment, if passed, would also have a critical impact on our business. Pups4Fun has been operating in the Canberra community, and specifically the Murrumbidgee electorate, for more than 10 years. We specialise in group socialisation activities, and in providing a safe and interactive place for dogs to learn, play, and grow.
We provide jobs for more than 20 local staff, support local business, and provide services to about 360 local dogs each week.
This amendment would significantly affect our operations, resulting in services for about 200 dogs each week being cut, and the loss of more than half our workforce.
Impact on animal welfare and the community
- We believe the serious potential unintended consequences of this change have not been appropriately considered.
- The three-dog restriction could result in possible unintended consequences that go against the intended aim of the legislation to ‘ensure animals have an acceptable quality of life’. Someone who is licensed to have four or more dogs might now be unable to walk all of them every day (for example, due to lack of time), or might have to walk them for half the time they would normally be walked to be able to fit in two walks.
- The amendment would also have a negative impact on dog trainers, in cases where they work with multiple dogs in public, as part as a dog’s socialisation and rehabilitation program.
- At least 200 dogs per week from our business alone will be forced back into their backyards, only getting walks with their owners, and miss out on critical socialisation. This would have a significant impact on their wellbeing.
- The change could also affect transporters of rescue dogs who may need to stop in public areas to toilet dogs, and would be considered the ‘sole carer’.
Impact on Pups4Fun
At Pups4Fun, our whole business model is based on safely socialising dogs in large groups. The Independent expert review into the management of dogs in the ACT stressed that socialisation is one of the key elements of responsible pet ownership.
This is exactly the kind of service we offer at Pups4Fun—we are a behaviour‑based business that helps socialise dogs safely, by selecting the service that each dog is best suited for, and teaching them to be around dogs within their level of comfort.
This amendment, if passed, would significantly affect the services we provide for owners who may not be able to walk their own dogs for various reasons, or who do not have the skills, time, or knowledge to adequately socialise them.
- Our playgroups currently include dogs who are still learning appropriate behaviour around other dogs. Without the group walk where they exercise impulse control around dogs first, these dogs might no longer be able to attend our off-lead play sessions, meaning they would no longer have a place to learn critical socialisation skills.
- Our Out n’ About Daycare dogs will no longer get external socialisation and enrichment, and be able to practise their manners in public. This is something we are well known for around Canberra, and has it assisted so many of our dogs to learn what it takes to be a responsible canine citizen.
- Our group walk dogs often include dogs who are:
- fearful of people, and walking in a group gives them the confidence to be out in public successfully
- fearful of other dogs, where parallel walking with other stable dogs helps them get over their fear and learn to be social
- fearful of the world in general, where being in a group of dogs gives them confidence and helps them learn that inanimate objects aren’t scary.
- Our very strict structure and process ensures we get the best outcome for the dog, the owner, and the community, and enables all dogs the opportunity to be successful members of the community.
Major flaws in the three-dog limit
- The current legislation already requires people to have their dog/s under effective control in a public place, whether on or off lead.
- This concept of ‘control’ already covers the intended purpose of the three‑dog maximum rule—that one person should not walk more dogs than he or she can control. It does so in a much more effective way, because the actual number of dogs under a person’s care is not relevant to whether that person has them under control.
- An experienced dog handler might be able to control a large number of dogs, while an inexperienced or uncaring one might struggle to control a single dog.
- Setting an arbitrary maximum number of dogs overlooks the various important factors that determine the number of dogs a person can have under effective control—including the skills and experience of the handler, the size, temperament, and training of the dog, and the equipment used.
- A person is absolutely able to safely control three dogs or more, for example, if the dogs are social, well trained, and on lead, and the person is using the right equipment.
- Walking three 80-kilo great danes is not comparable with walking three silky terriers in terms of a person’s ability to control them. The legislation is both too specific (an absolute number of three dogs), and not specific enough (three dogs of any kind—three mastiffs are not equal to three cavoodles, and three social and well‑trained dogs are not equal to three reactive and untrained dogs).
- An arbitrary maximum number can also legitimise and encourage a person to walk more dogs than they normally would or can effectively control.
- Nothing in the independent review suggested that walking more than three dogs at once contributes to dog attacks or endangers animals or the public. But it stated that current data collection processes in the ACT are inadequate. So, if there is no effective tracking of details of dog attacks in the ACT, this proposed amendment can’t be based on any reliable evidence nor any demonstrated causal relationship between dog attacks and the number of dogs under the care of a person in our territory.
- Setting an arbitrary maximum number of dogs per person doesn’t appear to be supported by any scientific evidence, and is ineffective legislation that unnecessarily penalises responsible dog owners for the bad behaviour of a minority. But most importantly, it is unnecessary, as the existing law already covers the most critical point of ‘control’.
Leaving dogs in a vehicle
We are also concerned about the potential ambiguity of new Section 113, which states:
‘Rescuing distressed animal in locked vehicle
- A person does not incur criminal or civil liability if, acting honestly and without recklessness, the person forcibly enters a locked motor vehicle, or assists another person to forcibly enter a locked motor vehicle, to release an animal in the motor vehicle which is apparently —
- distressed, injured, or at risk of being injured; or
- in need of emergency veterinary assistance.’
Leaving an animal in a hot car for long periods is unacceptable, and potentially deadly. But the word ‘distressed’ is open to individual interpretation, and we believe this section should be made clearer to avoid people unnecessarily breaking into cars when the animal is not under any physical danger.
We acknowledge the new Part 3A of the legislation, which requires business to be licensed and share their records with the authority.
We would like to be involved in the consultation process for the implementation of this change.
We thank the ACT Government for all the important work it is doing on improving animal welfare in the ACT, and for the opportunity to comment on these otherwise excellent amendments.
But we urge you to remove the three-dog limit from the amendment Bill, as it is unnecessary, and will create more problems than it solves.
We would be happy to discuss this submission further and welcome you to visit us to see what we achieve in person.
Our vision is to provide total fulfilment and holistic balance between dogs and the Canberra community.
Our mission is to provide knowledge through education, guidance, and an integrated and harmonious environment.
Our commitment is to provide dogs in the Canberra community with a safe and interactive place to learn, play, and grow.
Pups4Fun is Canberra’s leading dog daycare and dog adventure centre. We operate grooming salons in Fisher and Queanbeyan, have our own privately built and designed dog park near Fyshwick, operate three different streams of daycare from our shop in Fisher, and service about 130 mobile clients via our ‘doggy buses’ each week.
We specialise in behaviour, and provide a variety of services, tailored to suit the different temperament and needs of each dog.
We promote responsible pet ownership to more than 2,000 clients, as well as about 7,000 Facebook followers, and, through our work, have gained credibility on responsible dog ownership in Canberra and beyond.
We make weekly donations to many local foster groups to help with socialising of foster dogs and ensure they are best canine citizens possible before they find their forever homes.
We have a rigorous screening process for the dogs that we take on, to ensure they are placed in the most suitable activity for their needs.
We provide all our staff with an extensive induction, and initial and ongoing training to ensure they are skilled in handling dogs, and that those skills are continuously refined.
We give our staff as much knowledge and training as possible so that they are able to read, assess, and act quickly and effectively in any situation.
Our work has resulted in a huge number of dogs making significant progress in socialisation, manners, impulse control, and confidence. And many of our clients, who came to us because they were unable to work with their dog (for whatever reason), are now able to walk their dogs safely in public places.