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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3469 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

Although the proposals I am tabling today are largely about companion pets, I must emphasise that the issues covered by both the Domestic Animals Bill and the draft ACT urban cat management strategy can be crucial to people's enjoyment of our unique natural environment. Barking, crowing, caterwauling and squawking can all interfere with the amenity that people expect while they are at home.

There are measures within the Domestic Animals Bill that address the odious form of littering. Nobody enjoys the knowledge of the number of unwanted animals that are euthanased each year by vets, the RSPCA, as well as the ACT Government Pound. For the financial year ending June 1998, over 3,160 dogs and cats were euthanased, either due to behavioural or nuisance problems, or for the purpose of culling an unwanted litter.

Mr Speaker, the Bill proposes that dogs and cats are compulsorily required to be de-sexed. Exemptions will be available for owners of dogs and cats who wish that their animals remain sexually entire. This will require the owner to seek a permit from the Registrar. Nobody enjoys being harassed by dogs whilst walking through the suburbs. Nobody enjoys the unique singing abilities of "tom cats" that have not been de-sexed. Nobody enjoys the stress that can come from living near animals that are creating a nuisance.

Such problems may appear to be insignificant when considering some other items that are on the Assembly's current legislative program, but these problems can represent serious neighbourhood issues. It has been known for animal nuisance to inflame tensions to the point that restraining orders between the aggrieved parties have been sought and granted by the courts. I have probably received letters from the majority of members of this place highlighting specific issues that their constituents bring to their attention.

Mr Speaker, the exposure draft Bill contains a number of improvements and modifications to the current legislation that will enable problems concerning animals to be efficiently and effectively dealt with by Domestic Animal Services, which was formerly known as the Dog Control Unit. These include changes relating to: registration requirements for dogs; compulsory identification of dogs by microchip implant at eight weeks of age or point of sale; licensing procedures for keeping four or more dogs or a dangerous dog; dog attacks; the right of access to all public places for people with disabilities who are accompanied by a trained assistance animal; the issuing of nuisance notices for a nuisance caused by an animal and possible on-the-spot fines for ignoring a nuisance notice; powers of authorised officers to seize and in some cases destroy stray, attacking or nuisance domestic animals.

These changes address longstanding concerns within the community that have been expressed to the Government. Mr Speaker, to complement the Bill, I am pleased to also table the draft charter for responsible dog ownership. This charter condenses the major requirements of the Domestic Animals Bill as well as the requirements of both the Animal Welfare Act of 1992 and the code of practice for the welfare of dogs in the ACT.

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