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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 26 September 2019) . . Page.. 3945 ..

The Greens have been committed to the welfare of animals for a very long time; we have been at the forefront of animal rights reforms. In 2014, our bill banning battery hen production in the ACT was passed. In every term of the Assembly that had a Greens member in it up until that time, legislation banning cage egg production was moved. I moved one such motion in 2014. Finally we were successful. This made the ACT the first jurisdiction to legislate against factory farming. In 2014 our bill to prevent the intensive breeding of domestic animals for the pet market was passed; and, thanks to the parliamentary agreement in 2017, legislation to put an end to greyhound racing and an end to the million-dollar government subsidy for the industry was passed.

The Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill which we are debating now is another step in the right direction. One of the most positive things in it is the proposal to include in the objects of the Animal Welfare Act that “animals are sentient beings that are able to subjectively feel and perceive the world around them”. This is a great step forward. This is the principle that we need to work on in terms of our relationships with the other species that we share this planet with. Animals are sentient beings and we have rights and responsibilities as far as they are concerned. They feel and perceive the world around them. I am very pleased to see this change in emphasis in our legislation and, hopefully, more than that: also in our thinking as far as animals are concerned.

The new offences and categories, such as a failure to provide a cleaner, hygienic living environment, will ensure that a wider variety of forms of animal abuse and neglect will be encompassed in our legislation.

The new offences and categories include a permanent prohibition of animal ownership for more serious offences. This update is important and welcome. Until now, people found guilty of serious animal abuse have only been able to be banned from owning a pet on a temporary basis. In many, possibly most, cases, a temporary ban is an appropriate and proportionate response. But where there are major animal welfare issues, such as severe abuse, neglect or following a severe attack, as it stands, the owner is legally able to get another pet just a few years later. Where there has been a series of significant animal welfare abuses, the possibility of being able to stop people owning a pet in the future would seem to be a proportionate response.

We are pleased that the bill establishes a legislative framework enabling the use of genuine assistance animals. Assistance animals provide support to people with trauma, mental health issues and a range of disabilities. They allow for more movement and independence for the vision impaired and can save the lives of people living with epilepsy. The new legislation will make sure that anyone who denies a person with an assistance animal access to public premises or public transport will be legally discriminating against that person.

It is very good to see that provisions to prohibit pig dogging will be put in place, although it is a pity that this does not extend to all hunting with dogs.

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