Changes beef up animal welfare Act

PROPOSED amendments to the Animal Welfare Act could see additional powers of entry given to authorised officers and additional sentences for animal cruelty on top of other changes. Developed with the RSPCA and other key stakeholders, the Government’s Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2022 was tabled in Parliament earlier this week.

The changes outlined in the Bill were recommended by the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, a statutory body established under the Act, and will ensure improved welfare for all animals, including pets, livestock and wildlife.

Chiefly, the use of pronged collars is now considered as cruelty to animals in the amendment, as well as the increase in an animal welfare officers’ “power to enter, search and inspect premises” if it is believed an animal is suffering or in need of help.

Additionally, an officer may take possession of an animal and detain it in a safe place if the officer is satisfied that an offence has or may happen or the animal requires medical treatment by a veterinary surgeon. These small changes are in additional to a number of tweaks to the system that allow greater clarity on animal welfare offenses and penalties.

RSPCA Tasmania CEO Jan Davis said the amendments were a welcome part of a number of changes. “We are under an act that was written well over 30 years ago and hasn’t been substantially amended to reflect a lot of our current expectations of how we treat our animals. “I’d like to see a clean sheet of paper and a draft that covers the next 30 years, where we have the understanding of the roles animals play on human welfare. “We now recognise human-animal bonds and the role it plays in mental health, in homelessness and domestic violence, they are more than just possessions to us today.”

TFGA CEO Hugh Christie said the changes to the Bill would likely see more application in domestic settings, rather than on farms. “The changes are for the benefit of animal welfare as a whole; it isn’t specifically about agriculture,” Mr Christie said. “We’ve had many discussions with the department to ensure the changes were proportionate to individual situations and settings such as commercial farms.”

“This includes balancing the increase in emergency powers for welfare officers and a clear recognition that all response will be appropriate to specific situations, and the priority our members have on welfare of their livestock.” “We’re grateful for the efforts the department made in considering our comments and appreciating allowances for the farmers.”