Owners face fines for not walking dog under proposed anti-cruelty laws

Lachlan Roberts 16 May 2019 58
Dog terrier is behind the glass car

Under the proposed bill, a person would be legally allowed to break into a car to protect an animal from serious injury or death. File photo.

People who fail to walk their dog or groom or maintain their pet face potentially heavy fines under new anti-cruelty laws proposed by the ACT Government.

Leaving an animal unattended in a car will also attract fines up to $3200 under the proposed laws, which also allow a person to break into a car to save an animal if there is “serious and exceptional circumstances” and if the “person believes that a dog’s life is in danger”.

Having an animal in a moving vehicle without proper restraint would be punishable by up to one year in prison and a $16,000 fine.

The Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 is set to be introduced the Legislative Assembly this week by ACT Minister for City Services Chris Steel, after receiving feedback from the community earlier this year.

Mr Steel said the main objective of the bill is to recognise that animals are “sentient beings with intrinsic value” that deserve to be treated with compassion and that people have a duty to care for an animal.

The bill would introduce new offences including failing to groom and maintain an animal, lack of shelter for an animal and criminal charges if someone is found guilty of hitting or kicking an animal.

Under the bill, anyone found confining a dog for longer than 24 hours would have to provide two hours of exercise within 24 hours or pay a fine up to $4000.

Mr Steel said this does not apply to someone who keeps their dog in their yard, house or apartment and does not have the opportunity to walk them every day. It would, however, apply in a situation where a dog is tied to a pole for days on end or is kept in a cage where it cannot move.

The bill also doubles penalties for cruelty to an animal to up to two years’ imprisonment or a $32,000 fine or both and increases punishments for aggravated cruelty to three years behind bars or a fine of $48,000 or both.

The draft bill had proposed to limit the number of dogs a person can walk to a maximum of three, but this was dropped after a community backlash.

Mr Steel says the main objective of the bill is to recognise that animals are “sentient beings”. Photo: George Tsotsos.

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

“The feedback provided in developing this bill indicated that there is incredibly strong support for the ACT Government to recognise animals as sentient beings,” he said.

“On Thursday, the ACT Government will undertake an Australian first, by moving to pass legislation that recognises animals can feel emotion and pain.

“I am committed to ensuring that the ACT has the most comprehensive and effective animal protection laws in the country and this bill will go a long way in achieving that goal.”

RSPCA ACT has provided input to Mr Steel’s bill and CEO Michelle Robertson said she felt encouraged by the ACT Government’s push to have animals recognised as sentient creatures.

Ms Robertson believes the vast majority of Canberrans are responsible and loving pet owners but this bill is for the minority who continuously do the wrong thing.

“We believe in the five freedoms for animals and under the current legislation, we are only able to take action on the first three, which are: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort and freedom from pain, injury and disease,” Ms Robertson told Region Media.

“The fourth freedom is the freedom to express normal behaviour. If you are a big dog that is confined, you cannot express your normal behaviour because your movement is restricted.

“The fifth freedom is freedom from fear and distress. If an animal is a sentient being, we know that they can suffer mentally but we have never been able to do anything under a legal framework.”

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58 Responses to Owners face fines for not walking dog under proposed anti-cruelty laws
Dan Cunningham Dan Cunningham 6:04 am 17 May 19

Owners of cats who let them roam should face a $16000 fine or 1 year in prison as well if this legislation goes through.

    madelini madelini 2:27 pm 31 May 19

    I also believe dogs should be kept on-leash at all times unless they are in specified areas, such as dog parks, and owners should face similar penalties to the ones you mentioned.

Boweavil Kat Boweavil Kat 2:52 am 17 May 19

Got to lock cats up but got to let dogs out.

Elaine Malone Elaine Malone 8:37 pm 16 May 19

Good why have a dog if you can't find the time to walk it

Rob Smith Rob Smith 10:45 am 16 May 19

Yeah but there are plenty of people with nothing better to do than try and catch people out these laws are ridiculous the Gove should b

E focussing on issues that matter like jobs and fixing public transport

Grimm Grimm 9:48 am 16 May 19

This legislation sets a dangerous precedent.

I don’t think anybody is against harsher penalties for actual animal cruelty. Declaring animals “Sentient beings” on the other hand, is going way too far and is definitely going to come with some unintended consequences. You will have the push from one side saying the Government can’t decide which are sentient and which are not, so all animals must be declared sentient beings, which will be damaging to keeping livestock. On the other side you will have people saying things like registration distresses their dog, walking on a lead distresses their dog, my dog or cat feels sad about being desexed etc etc etc. I’ll bet this goes to court multiple times, costing ACT taxpayers probably millions.

Make no mistake, this is animal lib crackpottery. This is nothing but poorly thought out and should absolutely not go ahead in its current format.

    Dan Cunningham Dan Cunningham 6:02 am 17 May 19

    Agree %100! It’s almost seems like a precursor to an enforced vegan lifestyle…?

    madelini madelini 2:29 pm 31 May 19

    Um, sorry – I can’t see the logical jump there?

    Shierly Ngo Shierly Ngo 8:06 am 17 May 19

    Animals ARE sentient beings!!

Matt Darling Matt Darling 8:38 am 16 May 19

If they want to do some dog legislation, they ought to regulate dangerous dogs. It makes me sick seeing drug pushers wandering around with mastiffs and other pig dogs.

    Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 3:33 pm 16 May 19

    I'm not sure that a dog registration form that says "Are you a drug pusher?" on it will lead to the outcome you're looking for.

    Kieran Purves Kieran Purves 7:52 pm 16 May 19

    Also, no one pushes drugs, they sell themselves. People love drugs

Dan Backhouse Dan Backhouse 8:19 am 16 May 19

"proposed" no one's getting fined 4k for not walking their dog every day. How will they police and administer enforcement? Someone proposing something /=/ Legislated.

Carole Ford Carole Ford 7:35 am 16 May 19

Good lord, how the hell are they going to 'police' this one?

Margaret Gracie Margaret Gracie 7:00 am 16 May 19

Ban puppy farms and regulate breeders and kennels

Natalie Brown Natalie Brown 5:33 am 16 May 19

Myra Cooper this’ll make Dean super happy if it gets through. 🙂👍🏻

Helen Roberts Helen Roberts 5:03 am 16 May 19

I hope that the not walking dogs will not apply to very old dogs who are no longer capable of walking outside their home and garden. I had a neighbour who condemned me for not walking a 14 year old dog who can barely walk any more and when we take him out to the garden quickly decides he wants to go back to his bed. The vet has him on arthritis medication twice a day.

    Jenny Koch Jenny Koch 6:04 am 16 May 19

    Helen Roberts same here. My 14 year old goes for a walk every day. A 5 minute sniff around the block 5m behind me on his 5m lead. He simply can’t do anymore and doesn’t want to on his stiff legs. He’s on every medication/supplements but he’d rather not.

    Allison Laidlaw Allison Laidlaw 8:00 am 16 May 19

    Its about not being cruel to animals.. im pretty sure old age pets who cannot do walks anymore would be safe. As it would be cruel to walk them

    Margaret Rose Margaret Rose 12:58 pm 16 May 19

    My ten year old German Shepherd has arthritis and is on daily medication plus monthly injections ,I am not walking her around if she is sore ,then only gentle short walks ,How on earth are they going to police this anyway

maxblues maxblues 1:11 am 16 May 19

Yes, let’s hope we see lots more dogs on long leads out on those shared bike paths.

Peter Brundish Peter Brundish 12:47 am 16 May 19

What next, you must eat vegan food once a month, ride the tram to gungahlin and vote labor...or someone will shop you...the Stasi will get you...

Anna Francesca Clancy Anna Francesca Clancy 10:40 pm 15 May 19

I’m glad to hear this. Too many people just see their dogs as accessories and don’t look after them properly or regularly walk and exercise them. Bring it on!

Hayley Gray Hayley Gray 9:30 pm 15 May 19

Great, but how is it going to be enforced?

Pamela Tomlinson Pamela Tomlinson 9:24 pm 15 May 19

I read the Canberra Times article this morning — I think further clarification is needed.

For instance, transporting an animal in a way that causes stress, my horse hates the float and gets stressed, does that mean I can’t bring him into ACT, despite the fact he is safe, well trained and in a float that that exceeds his needs? What if I need to take him to the vet?

And the whip rule, a lot of dressage riders use whips on their horses, as a refinement of the aids — not hitting but tapping kindly. But the new law states jockeys can flog a horse with a heavy whip down the track. Does that mean Horseland needs to stop selling them to anyone who isn’t a jockey?

What if you’re being attacked by a dog, we just need to pat it and say good boy?

Very confused!

Kath Ras Kath Ras 9:16 pm 15 May 19

What if you have a really old dog that cannot be walked everyday?? Do we have to put them in a pram and to walk them?

    Deb Liz Deb Liz 10:17 pm 15 May 19

    My dog has massive anxiety probs, a large yard and another dog to play with. If I walk her I'd get fined. She doesn't cope at all.

Lauren Walker Lauren Walker 9:16 pm 15 May 19

Soooo supportive of this!!! Thank you ACT government. The sad reality is that far too many animals experience neglect and abuse and it is heartbreaking. You see it far too often in the shelters and RSPCA. As an animal lover and advocate I am proud that the ACT is leading the country on this 👍🏼✅

    Rob Smith Rob Smith 10:52 am 16 May 19

    Perhaps u should experience life outside rspca majority pet owners do right thing no need for these nanny state laws

Brendan Whitechurch Brendan Whitechurch 9:15 pm 15 May 19

How do you police this you fuckin morons

Sue Bee Sue Bee 9:12 pm 15 May 19

The explanatory notes for this proposed legislation will hopefully clarify that this claim is in fact not true across the board. The not exercising rule applies when dogs have been confined, as in a crate or small area - such as is often found in puppy farms or where a dog is chained. That is, it would not apply when a pet in kept in a yard where they can move freely, play and have freedom to be active and happy. Please don't be mislead by any sensationalist headlines or posts.

    Pamela Tomlinson Pamela Tomlinson 9:25 pm 15 May 19

    Sue could you please post a link? 😃

    Sue Bee Sue Bee 9:32 pm 15 May 19

    Pamela Tomlinson link to what?

    Sue Bee Sue Bee 9:34 pm 15 May 19

    Do you mean the explanatory notes? It is something they have to have with legislation to make the intent of legislation clear as I think this proposed law is being misinterpreted. But haven’t seen the notes myself.

    Claire Thorpe Claire Thorpe 4:56 am 16 May 19

    Link to the amendments is on this page. https://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/animal-welfare-bill-amendments I wonder whether Reporters have read it.

    Sue Bee Sue Bee 11:58 pm 16 May 19

    Claire Thorpe Its a mystery - can't find anything on it there.

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