Animal Welfare Law Enforcement

With such a large number of people and animals living together and despite regulations and legislation being implemented, it is unfortunate that in some circumstances the welfare and care of animals falls below the standards and needs that our animals deserve requiring welfare laws to be reviewed.

Animal welfare laws at all levels of government until recent times have been outdated and are mostly now under review.

Animal Care Australia supports the rigorous review of animal welfare laws.

Animal Care Australia as the peak body representing animal keepers and breeders will continue to ensure Animal Care Australia is central to the review of all animal welfare laws.

Animal Care Australia supports and encourages government to legislate the formation of consultative groups that include Animal Care Australia and other major animal welfare stakeholders.

Animal welfare law making has evolved in recent decades from a user driven to a department driven process.

Animal Care Australia supports a user driven animal welfare law development process. Those who keep and breed animals are the experts.

Bureaucracies should be advisors and managers of the animal welfare law development process, not the dictators of what should be law.

Animal welfare law should be supportive of the keeping of animals in our community, acknowledging the benefits for people in terms of empathy for animals, overall health benefits for the community and sustainable outcomes for the animals.

There is insufficient funding to ensure compliance with animal welfare laws, and this is unlikely to change in the near future.

Approved Charitable Organisations (ACO’s) such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in each state and Animal Welfare League (AWL) are currently placed to perform compliance and enforcement, however Animal Care Australia strongly encourages the individual state and territory governments to be directly responsible for compliance and enforcement and to cease outsourcing this vital function. RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League receive minimal government funding and rely on charitable fundraising to operate.

Currently, the different states and territories have different arrangements for meeting their compliance requirements.

  • The Australian Capital Territory allows the RSPCA to carry out compliance inspections, however the Department of Public Prosecutions follows with any prosecutions.
  • The Northern Territory Government complete their own compliance investigations and prosecutions.
  • In Western Australia the RSPCA carry out the inspections, the Department of Primary Industries & Regional Development oversee and approve prosecutions that are then continued by the RSPCA.
  • Queensland is following the Western Australian model.
  • New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania all still have the RSPCA functioning under full autonomy with little to no real accountability. NSW also has the Animal Welfare League under its own autonomy.

Within this current situation Animal Care Australia makes the following recommendations and encourages these to be applied nationally where appropriate including individual State/territories:

  • Charitable organisations are to be more accountable and transparent in their actions and investigations.
  • Animal Care Australia recommends the accountability of the organisations be overseen by the Ombudsman’s Office or equivalent.
  • Animal Care Australia recommends a review of the powers for enforcement – on the basis of law and the protection of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Animals are being seized on the presumption of guilt – this is not in the animal’s best interest.
  • Animal Care Australia recommends the prosecutorial stage of an investigation be transferred to the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) within each state/territory.
  • Animal Care Australia supports the need for more sustainable funding.
  • Animal Care Australia does not support charitable organisations having exemption from the provision of the Government Information (Public Access) Acts or Freedom of Information Acts.
  • Animal Care Australia recommends a stronger focus on welfare education over prosecution within the current review of all Acts overseeing the prevention of cruelty to animals.
  • Animal Care Australia recommends streamlining prevention of cruelty Acts with a focus on improved understanding of standards & guidelines by owners and enforcement officers to guarantee best and improved animal welfare outcomes for all animals.

Until these arrangements can be challenged and changed:

  • Animal Care Australia no longer supports the RSPCA as a compliance and enforcement organisation
  • Animal Care Australia continues to support the Animal Welfare League as an investigative and enforcement organisation
  • Animal Care Australia supports the prosecutorial process of enforcement to be the responsibility of the appropriate government department and/or the Department of Public Prosecutions
  • Government must ensure sufficient measures of accountability, transparency and appeal are in place, regardless of the organisation/department carrying out investigation and enforcement roles.

Education of the general public is in most cases – a more economical means of improving animal welfare outcomes given limited funding. All animal welfare acts must include legislative clauses requiring funding for education and promotion of higher animal welfare outcomes. Animal Care Australia member clubs are well placed to assist in educating
The current focus on reacting to reported infractions whilst most infractions go unreported is an inefficient use of resources. Extraordinary resources are often directed at single cases. Animal Care Australia encourages a review of resource policy to better target resources to improve animal welfare outcomes strategically.

Animal Care Australia strongly encourages the individual state and territory governments to be directly responsible for compliance and enforcement of animal welfare legislation