13 December 2018

New laws aimed at curbing dog attacks and keeping animals safe

| Ian Bushnell
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New laws will mean leaving an animal unattended in a car could prove costly for the owner. Photo: RSPCA ACT.

The number of dogs permitted to be walked at one time may be limited to three to minimise the possibility of dog attacks and people who leave their animals in cars face heavy fines under proposed new animal welfare laws to be unveiled today.

The ACT Government is proposing a range of new animal welfare measures in draft legislation that Minister for City Services Chris Steel says is designed to help keep Canberra’s animals safe and appropriately cared for.

The Bill, out for consultation, 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.

The dog walking limit is aimed to ensure better control of dogs and prevent people and other animals being attacked.

The bill will also include new offences around dog fighting and violent animal activities with provisions for ‘effective enforcement’.

Leaving an animal unattended in a car will attract fines up to $3,200, and allow a person to break into a car to save an animal where there are reasonable grounds to do so.

Mr Steel said the draft laws would enable the Government to prevent those who are cruel to animals from owning, caring for or living with animals, with 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 will increase.

It will also be easier to ban offenders from owning animals with repeat offenders or those who have committed serious animal welfare offences and are likely to be a danger to other animals, able to be banned from owning, caring for or living with animals.

There is also a move to stamp out puppy farming with licensing of pet boarding establishments and pet shops, to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare.

Mr Steel said the Bill would also establish a legislative framework for assistance animals, supporting registration and training for assistance animals and ensuring right of access for people with assistance animals, with penalties for refusing access to public premises.

“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,” Mr 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.

“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,” Mr 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 laws will recognise that animals are sentient beings that can feel emotion and pain and deserve to have an acceptable quality of life.

Consultation on the draft Animal Welfare legislation is open through www.yoursay.act.gov.au until 7 February 2019.


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