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

Lachlan Roberts 16 May 2019 63
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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63 Responses to Owners face fines for not walking dog under proposed anti-cruelty laws
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 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.

    Kelly Soli Kelly Soli 12:54 pm 16 May 19

    Kath Ras I doubt it would apply to older dogs, dogs with health issues. The point is to make sure the animal is being taken care of properly & sounds like you're already a responsible owner, being that you are aware of your dogs needs already

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.

Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 9:07 pm 15 May 19

I don’t think I’ll have to worry about this new legislation. One spoiled rescued greyhound in a onesie sleeping on her comfy bed in either aircon or ducted heating conditions. Two walks a day, four beds to choose from, premium quality food and too many toys!

Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 9:04 pm 15 May 19

Great idea but how will this be policed? People walk their dogs off lead which is illegal and the government do nothing about it so how are they going to enact this?

    Margaret Gracie Margaret Gracie 6:57 am 16 May 19

    Julie Maynard there are some off leash areas

    Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 10:45 am 16 May 19

    Margaret Gracie sure, but most are not!

    Rob Smith Rob Smith 10:51 am 16 May 19

    Sensible move to not fine for off leash no problem caused we have dog meeting every morning in our park the dogs love running around together of leash doesn’t cause any probs do why illegal

    Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 12:24 pm 16 May 19

    Rob Smith because some owners can’t control their dogs (have no recall). Dogs on lead feel threatened by dogs off lead approaching. Then you see reactivity which can lead to dog fights. If everyone uses a lead, it leads to less stress dogs and owners.

Jody Maree Harrison Jody Maree Harrison 8:41 pm 15 May 19

Animals matter yes . but people’s lives matter .

Older people homeless people low income people . 🤷🏿‍♀️

Amy LD Amy LD 8:40 pm 15 May 19

My pup gets walked 2 x a day and carries on sometimes like he’s been locked up for days. Ummm Am I going to get a fine for this hahaha. My boy hates the car lol. I had to film needed evidence for the vet.

Trish McLaren Trish McLaren 8:38 pm 15 May 19

Oh maybe add not walking your dog on a lead as well.

This is stupid with everything else we actually need in the ACT,

Jamie Mcgahey Jamie Mcgahey 8:19 pm 15 May 19

Doesn't matter dont get jail time for animal cruelty anyway ... slap on wrist 300$fine all good bru!

Ray Mun Koo Ray Mun Koo 8:18 pm 15 May 19

Morgan Edwards - mate, i’m sorry but this one is for you 😂

    Kate Woodward Kate Woodward 8:39 pm 15 May 19

    Tagging each other on Fb is brotherly love right there. 💕

    Jess Driscoll Jess Driscoll 9:49 pm 16 May 19

    I now have serious concerns about how Morgan is treating his dog!!

Chloe Haseltine Chloe Haseltine 8:17 pm 15 May 19

It’s alright, they don’t bother to enforce the laws the currently have so I can’t see them enforcing these ones either.

Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 8:10 pm 15 May 19

How ridiculous do we need to be with rules in this country. Seriously

    Shaun Hazell Shaun Hazell 8:49 pm 15 May 19

    Exactly the most over governed over regulated over taxed country on Earth.

    Gavin Mcmullan Gavin Mcmullan 8:56 pm 15 May 19

    Full of whiners

    Lauren Walker Lauren Walker 9:08 pm 15 May 19

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason have you seen the neglect and abuse some animals/pets endure? Sadly this is needed.

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 9:34 pm 15 May 19

    Lauren Walker prosecute those under current laws but don’t make the rest of us responsible pet owners subject to this. Must be a slow day in the assembly but I want my elected tax payer funded politicians to be doing better than this.

    Allison Laidlaw Allison Laidlaw 7:53 am 16 May 19

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason if you are a responsible pet owner the laws won't effect you anyhow..

    As a groomer I see the conditions of neglect that dogs come in with and their owners say they love and care for their dogs too. So yes atm we need these laws

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 8:12 am 16 May 19

    Allison Laidlaw but surely we already have laws in place. Maybe more resources need to be put towards prosecuting and enforcing current laws. I don’t want to be mandated to walk my dog every 24 hrs. That’s ridiculous. If current laws aren’t working for whatever reason then introducing more is pointless. We are overegulated in this country on many things. They laugh about it in Europe.

    Rob Smith Rob Smith 10:55 am 16 May 19

    More nanny state laws from useless govt pandering to minorities

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