Don't let the dog out: $4000 fine in the ACT

Pig-dogging to be banned in ACT in new animal welfare laws

The ACT is recognising animals as 'sentient beings' and will impose heavy fines for instance if a dog is not exercised.

The ACT is recognising animals as 'sentient beings' and will impose heavy fines for instance if a dog is not exercised.


First government to recognise animals as "sentient beings"


Pig-dogging will be banned and pet owners could face fines of up to $4000 if they do not walk their dogs as the ACT Government seeks to create the first animal welfare laws where animals are recognised as "sentient beings".

The Bill to be introduced into the ACT legislature on Thursday even means dogs can't even be refused a ride in an Uber taxi.

Pet shops and boarding kennels will be licensed and all pets recognised as "sentient beings with intrinsic value" under major amendments to animal welfare legislation tabled in the ACT Assembly this week. The new bill will be introduced by ACT City Services Minister Chris Steel.

A person will be allowed to break into a car to save a suffering animal where the action is deemed reasonable. The bill also sets a maximum time limit of 24 hours on a dog's continuous confinement. Failing to exercise the dog immediately after that may attract a maximum fine of $4000.

Hitting, kicking or throwing something at an animal will be an offence which could also attract a $4000 fine, although jockeys using whips during horse races will be exempt.

The toughest penalties under the legislation are reserved for people involved in violent animal activity such as cockfighting or dogfighting, hunting competitions or live baiting.

Anyone who takes part will be fined $48,000 and face three years in prison. Anyone who attends these events will also face a $16,000 fine and a year's imprisonment.

Confining an animal, or even transporting it in a way which causes it injury, pain or stress, will attract a maximum penalty of $16,000 and a year's imprisonment.

An identical penalty will apply for anyone who places an electric shock device on an animal, such as a shock collar.

Related: Dental floss sutures lead to animal cruelty fine

Releasing an animal from another person's custody or control without consent, such as taking a dog off a lead or leaving a cattleyard gate open, could attract an $8000 fine.

ACT's Shadow Minister for Urban Services Nicole Lawder said "this radical Greens policy is what Australians should expect when Labor forms government with the Greens".

"Australians love their animals and overwhelmingly care for them as a much-loved member of the family.

"This is a massive overreach into the lives of decent and hardworking families. It is clear Labor and the Greens believe Australians cannot be trusted to do the right thing by their furry friends."

The Liberals said it was hypocritical of the ACT Government introducing animal protection laws when it was going about a large cull of kangaroos in the ACT at the moment.

Under the new laws, using force to break into a locked car to rescue a distressed animal, or helping someone to do so, will be legal provided the person exercises "appropriate care and skill" and is not significantly affected by drugs or alcohol.

To be forcibly rescued, the animal must be distressed, injured or at risk of being injured, or in need of urgent veterinary attention. The new laws will require pet shops to apply for a licence which will be valid for up to five years.

Guide dogs, hearing dogs or service dogs will be provided unfettered access to public spaces and buildings including churches, restaurants, clubs and public passenger vehicles such as buses, taxis and Ubers.

Using a sick or injured animal for breeding will be an offence and this will also include "unfit" animals placed on show. For instance, if a person is in charge of a petting zoo and uses an animal distressed by human contact, the owner may be fined up to $8000.

Animal rights group Voiceless, explains the history of animal sentience in Australia on its website.

It says an animal is sentient if "it is capable of being aware of its surroundings, its relationships with other animals and humans, and of sensations in its own body, including pain, hunger, heat or cold."

"Australian law classifies animals as property and fails to recognise their sentience. It says that most animals in Australia are "expressly excluded from animal welfare legislation".

"Animals farmed for food, as well as those used for other human purposes, are instead governed by Codes of Practice which allow for many cruelties, including the castration of piglets without pain relief and the confinement of their mothers in individual cages - acts which are illegal when inflicted on companion animals like dogs and cats.

"Farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain," said Dame Jane Goodall a patron of Voiceless.

The NFF was contacted for a comment. It is not known how the new ACT laws - that must still pass the legislature - will apply to animals kept on farm. A story published by the ABC said pig-dogging would be banned in the ACT, although this was removed in later stories.

The NSW DPI says pig-dogging is a responsible activity if conducted properly.

"Pig hunting with dogs is a popular recreational and commercial activity in NSW. Responsible pig doggers are ethical, trustworthy hunters who actively promote safe and legal pig hunting with dogs," it says on its website.

"However, some pig doggers choose to do the wrong thing by hunting illegally. Illegal hunting can include hunting without permission on private or public land, hunting without a licence on public land or breaching hunting and animal cruelty regulations."

The ACT laws will be clarified when the full bill is released on Thursday.

Part of this story first appeared in The Canberra Times


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