Companion Animals Bill
COMPANION ANIMALS BILL
Consideration resumed from 28 May.
New Clauses 11 and 12
Mr E. T. PAGE (Coogee - Minister for Local Government) [4.35 p.m.]: The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Bligh. The definition of "sell" in the bill includes transfer of ownership whether or not money changes hands. That is part of the strategy to reduce over time large-scale backyard breeding and free-to-good-home arrangements. This amendment would place tighter restrictions on people who may sell an animal and could result in even larger scale dumping of litters than currently occurs, thereby expanding the current problem.
Compliance with the new law will take the profits from backyard breeding, and people who allow their animals to have a litter, whether or not intentionally, will be encouraged to find homes for the pups or kittens through a recognised animal welfare organisation or other licensed animal sales outlets. The Government therefore considers that the amendment is already addressed by the bill. Further, the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Animal Trades) Regulation 1997 require breeders to keep records of an animal’s parentage and vaccination regime for the benefit of an intending owner and, as far as possible, ensure that their animals go to caring and responsible pet owners. The Government cannot accept the amendment.
Ms MOORE (Bligh) [4.36 p.m.]: I seek leave to amend my amendment to read as follows:
No. 1 Page 9. Insert after line 32:
Part 3 Sale of dogs and cats
(1) A person must not sell a dog or cat otherwise than:
(a) in the person’s capacity as a breeder registered with an organisation approved in writing by the Director-General, or
(b) in the person’s capacity as the proprietor of, or an employee working in, a shop the principal business of which is the sale of animals as pets, or
(c) by means of an advertisement (however disseminated, including by word of mouth) that does not permit a person to sight the dog or cat concerned (otherwise than by means of a photograph, drawing or similar representation) at the time at which the advertisement is first brought to the person’s attention.
Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.
(2) This section does not apply to any of the following:
(c) the Animal Welfare League.
(3) In this section, sell does not include transfer ownership in the property of the animal concerned by way of gift.
12 Information to be provided on sale
(1) A person who sells a dog or cat must:
(a) provide the purchaser with such information as may be prescribed by the regulations in order to assist the purchaser to be a responsible owner of the animal concerned, and
(b) provide that information to the purchaser before the animal is sold.
Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), the regulations may require the provision of information as to the following:
(a) the expected lifespan of the animal,
(b) the size to which the animal is likely to grow,
(d) the likely costs of ownership of the animal.
(3) The Director-General is to develop, and keep up to date, a register of the kind of information referred to in subsection (2) and disseminate the information to local authorities.
Since this matter was last under consideration I have received further comment from interested bodies and I have made an important change to my amendment in response to feedback from the World League for the Protection of Animals. The amendment will reduce the number of unwanted litters. However, even with public education programs and subsidised desexing programs there will always be some undesexed animals and it is important that the owners of these animals should not resort to putting the puppies or kittens to death or dumping them. A legal channel to sell the animals to good homes is needed. The amendment is designed to retain the objective of reducing impulse buying while providing owners with an avenue for selling dogs and cats.
Specifically the amendment will allow individuals to sell animals by way of advertisement that does not permit a buyer to sight the animal at the time when the advertisement is first brought to the person’s attention. That retains the current situation with people being legally able to advertise, for example, in local papers and on community noticeboards. However, importantly, it prevents the use of the kitten or puppy tug-of-the-heart-strings impulse buying which can lead to the tragic dumping of animals, which threatens our environment and results in 60,000 to 80,000 animals having to be put down.
I should like to make one other point. Confusion seems to have arisen in some people’s minds about whether people who are concerned about and champions of the environment would not also be concerned about and champions of companion animals. I am a long-time defender and champion of urban and natural environments. In fact, it is the reason I originally stood for council and put myself forward to represent the electorate of Bligh. I am also a very strong advocate of responsible companion animal ownership. Those positions are compatible. I wish to put on the parliamentary record that people who go in to bat for the environment also care very much for companion animals.
Dr MACDONALD (Manly) [4.40 p.m.]: I support the comments of the honourable member for Bligh by pointing out that research shows that there is a much higher membership of environmental organisations amongst people who own companion animals. The honourable member’s amendment relating to restrictions on sale is an attempt to restrict the proliferation of unwanted animals. Arguably, it does not go far enough. Not only should there be a restriction on sale; probably there needs to be a restriction on the breeding of companion animals. I addressed this issue in a submission I made in relation to the green paper on companion animals. I argued that all breeders should be licensed. I do not mean just breeders of pedigree animals, who obviously require licensing, but also individuals who meet certain criteria.
Licensing must be based on strict criteria and on the question of exclusivity. I believe that mongrels are a good thing: they are an important element in maintaining the strength of species and would have to be provided for in any licensing scheme. We should not look just at the restriction of sales but also at the issue of breeding. Cats and dogs are natural procreators. They have absolutely no regard for sustainable management principles. Therefore, we need to regulate them at various points. I have referred to the control of breeding. The amendment proposed by the honourable member for Bligh would regulate who can sell and who cannot sell. It is all about trying to restrict the ownership of dogs to those who are responsible and those who will remain responsible. It is a good amendment.
Mr E. T. PAGE (Coogee - Minister for Local Government) [4.42 p.m.]: The Government still cannot accept the amendment. I inform the honourable member for Manly that the licensing of breeders comes under the prevention of cruelty to animals legislation, not under this legislation.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put.
Division called for. Standing Order 191 applied.
(4) A local authority that receives that information must make it available, free of charge, to any member of the public on request.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Ms MOORE (Bligh) [4.46 p.m.], by leave: I move amendments 2 and 3 circulated in my name in globo:
No. 2 Page 10, clause 11, lines 3-9. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
11 Dog to wear form of identification
(1) A dog must wear a form of identification that enables a local authority to ascertain the following information:
(a) the name of the dog and the address or telephone number of the owner of the dog,
(b) (once the dog is registered) the information contained on the current registration tag for the dog.
(2) The identification may take any of the following forms:
(a) a collar worn around the dog’s neck with a tag or tags attached,
(c) any other form of identification prescribed by the regulations.
(3) This section does not affect the operation of section 6.
The amendments relate to the form of identification. They address legislative overkill. Only one form of identification is necessary for companion animals. The requirement for dogs and cats to wear a collar and a tag is unreasonable. Many animals will refuse to wear a collar and will make every attempt to remove it. This is a particular problem with cats. Why should owners face a considerable penalty in relation to animals not wearing a collar if their pets can be identified by a range of methods? The amendments are intended to remove a clause that has considerable potential to cause problems, even for responsible owners. The requirement to wear a collar and tag should be unnecessary if the provisions of part 2, clauses 6 and 7, are effectively implemented. I refer to the requirement that companion animals be identified either prior to sale or by 12 weeks of age.
Clause 11 does not specify the form of the identification. The amendments will rationalise the identification of animals in line with the content of clauses 6 and 7. Why should an owner who has gone to the time and expense of microchipping also be required to virtually ensure that a pet wears a collar? Specifically, the amendments provide that a dog must wear some form of identification that would enable a local authority to establish the contact information of the owner and the current registration information of the dog and allow for alternative methods to be used, including collars, microchipping, tattooing, et cetera. The amendments in no way prevent pet owners from placing collars and tags on their animals and benefiting from the easy access to information that this provides.
Owners using this method will benefit from the fact that their neighbours can easily read the information and return the pet. In other situations other forms of identification will need to be checked against information in the register. Local councilswould then be responsible for ensuring that they have scanning equipment to read the information. The Minister will be responsible for ensuring that the register of companion animals does provide the relevant information based on an animal’s identification. To sum up, the amendments provide that companion animals need one form of effective identification.
Progress reported from Committee and leave granted to sit again.
No. 3 Page 10, clause 11, lines 19-22. Omit "The regulations may provide that a registration tag can show the information required to be shown on a name tag and for that to be sufficient compliance with the requirement to have a name tag attached to a dog’s collar.".