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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3470 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

This brings me to the next part of the package, the draft ACT urban cat management strategy. Cats, love them or loathe them, almost everyone has an opinion about them, and almost everyone agrees that something should be in place to manage them. The draft ACT urban cat management strategy has addressed the problems that members of the community raised within their comments on the ACT cat management discussion paper. The majority of problems have flowed from the inadequate standards of care, responsibility and hygiene applied by some cat owners. These, in turn, cause animal welfare concerns, nuisance problems and wildlife predation.

As part of the draft ACT urban cat management strategy, the Government is incorporating requirements within the Domestic Animals Bill to give effect to three key policies in the strategy. Firstly, as mentioned previously, the Government believes that de-sexing of cats should now be compulsory, with exemptions for a limited number of purposes, such as breeding. Secondly, the Government believes that identification of cats should also be compulsory. This can be done cheaply and painlessly by a microchip implant.

Finally, the Government believes there are circumstances where a Minister should have the power to declare certain areas to be areas where a cat must be confined to its owner's premises, perhaps at night, or perhaps at all times, because of a particular and serious nature conservation threat. This would be a power to be used rarely, but it might, for example, apply in streets adjoining a nature reserve containing an endangered species of animal that is vulnerable to cat predation.

Mr Speaker, I draw the attention of the members of the Assembly to the fact that the implementation of the strategy will focus on promoting community acceptance of a voluntary charter for responsible cat ownership. This charter, like the one for dogs, is in exposure draft form at this point. I am releasing the draft charter with this package to encourage community debate right across the spectrum of domestic animal issues.

Mr Speaker, I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that I am also tabling a draft code of practice for the sale of animals in the ACT. This draft code has been prepared by the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, and I believe it is significant in tying together many loose ends of community concern regarding companion animals in the ACT. Mr Speaker, this document is a revision of the gazetted code of practice for pet shops in the ACT. However, it is now far more wide reaching and innovative in its scope.

This code of practice is establishing the minimum standards for the sale of not just companion animals in the ACT, but also for food animals and produce animals. In fact this code of practice sets the standards for the sale of any live animal, with the exception of those animals which are covered by the code of practice for saleyards. Mr Speaker, normally a code of practice under the Animal Welfare Act 1992 would be subject to direct stakeholder consultation. In this case, however, I believe it is important to table the draft code of practice as part of the strategy companion animal management package for broader public consultation.

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