New laws to promote respect and care for animals in the ACT

Released 13/12/2018

The ACT Government is proposing a range of new animal welfare measures to help keep Canberra’s animals safe and appropriately cared for.

“We know that Canberrans really value and care for the welfare animals in our community and our Government is moving to strengthen protections for the welfare of animals and our approach to animal cruelty,” Minister for City Services Chris Steel said.

“All animals should have a good quality of life, and we want to strengthen our laws to ensure that all animals are respected and properly cared for in the ACT, in consultation with the community.

“The draft legislation would introduce 12 new offences to deal with duty of care and cruelty issues, including offences for failing to groom and maintain an animal,  failure to provide an animal with water or shelter, and failure to provide a hygienic environment, and an offence of hitting or kicking an animal.

“In relation to more serious animal welfare offences, the draft laws would enable the Government to prevent those who are cruel to animals from owning, caring for or living with animals.”

Minister Steel said that another aspect of the Bill was the establishment of a legislative framework for assistance animals, supporting registration and training for assistance animals and ensuring right of access for people with assistance animals.

“Assistance animals provide support for many Canberrans to participate and be included in our community. We want to provide certainty for people with an assistance animal that they can access any public premises with their assistance dog,” Minister Steel said.

“Our proposed laws will send a clear message, if you deny a person with an assistance animal access to public premises’ you could be fined $4000 for an individual or $20,250 for a corporation.”

Public premises’ include public passenger vehicles like public transport, taxis and rideshare, restaurants, shopping centres and businesses, including professional, trade and commercial premises’.

Key features of the new Bill are:

  • a new specific offence for leaving an animal unattended in a car with fines up to $3200, and allow a person to break into a car to save an animal where there are reasonable grounds to do so.
  • licensing of pet boarding establishments and pet shops, to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare and continue to stamp out puppy farming;
  • new offences for minor duty of care or cruelty offences that include warnings and the ability to issue fines. Serious offence provisions have been retained, and the jail terms for the most severe offences have increased;
  • improved provisions around animal ownership bans, meaning that people who are repeat offenders or who have committed serious animal welfare offences and are likely to be a danger to other animals, can be prevented from owning, caring for or living with animals;
  • recognition that animals are sentient beings that can feel emotion and pain and deserve to have an acceptable quality of life;
  • new offence provisions around dog fighting and violent animal activities with effective enforcement capability;
  • a proposal to limit the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at a time to three, to ensure control of dogs and improve safety from dog attacks and;
  • an accreditation system for assistance animals and ensuring the rights of access for people with a disability who rely on an assistance animal.

Consultation on the draft Animal Welfare legislation is open through until 7 February 2019.

- Statement ends -

Section: Chris Steel, MLA | Media Releases

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