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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (13 May) . . Page.. 1865..

Animal Legislation (Penalties) Amendment Bill 2004

Mr Stefaniak , pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STEFANIAK (8.30): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Thankfully in most instances Canberra is an animal-loving community. Most of us have or have had pets and most of us, I am sure-in fact, I think all right-thinking people-abhor cruelty to animals. Animals cannot talk or look after themselves. They are dependent on human beings and deserve the maximum possible protection from harm.

I was very happy with discussions I had with the RSPCA, especially its head Mr Tatts. I had a lengthy talk with him at a charity day late last year. The RSPCA have, for some time, desired more realistic penalties for cruelty to animals. These penalties have not been changed for many years and many people are keen to see them increased. On occasions magistrates have bemoaned the fact that the maximum penalty available for cruelty to animals is 12 months imprisonment. There has been only one instance in Canberra of a person being jailed for horrendous cruelty to animals. On occasions magistrates have commented that the range of penalties is very low for really horrible acts.

The RSPCA told me that there have been a lot of studies done which show that there is a real correlation between people who commit cruelty to animals and then go on to be cruel to people and commit other particularly nasty offences on people. The RSPCA suggested to me that, for example, when Martin Bryant was a younger man he used to be cruel to cats-shoot and be quite vicious with cats. We all know what horrendous things he did to people at Port Arthur. I have been informed by the RSPCA-and they certainly should know-that there is a real correlation there.

The current penalty for cruelty to animals is one-year's imprisonment or a fine. A maximum of one-year's imprisonment is half of what you get for a common assault, which is basically pushing someone or even slapping them. It is five times less for an assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which means that you will be drawing blood. It really is a very low maximum penalty and people, including magistrates, have bemoaned the fact that there is little deterrent value.

I have seen some fairly horrible acts of cruelty to animals during my time in the courts-cruelty to individual animals and to animals kept locked up, animals being starved, beaten and mistreated and particularly nasty and vicious acts to animals with crackers. I have heard of instances of defenceless dogs being beaten. There was a particularly horrible act of a dog being beaten with a crowbar. I do not know whether or not the person went to jail for that. There have been a series of really nasty and vicious acts on poor defenceless animals.

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