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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3682 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

It is my view that six weeks is a considerable lead time if somebody wants a nuisance dog taken care of and the owner is not acting but just being irresponsible. After six weeks lead time, the documentation and presentation to the DPP, it was thought that seeking a warrant unnecessarily extended the time; that there were already sufficient safeguards-namely, the six weeks, the objector's log, documentation by the department and presentation to the DPP-to prevent any abuses. I concur with that view.

The second point was animal identification. There is a requirement for a registration tag as opposed to a choice of a dog tag or a microchip to identify an animal. The registration tag is quick and simple. It fulfils all the requirements for identification and, hopefully, the return of an animal to the owner. The two alternatives-the microchip and the dog tag-require either extra technology or further information. This could delay the return of the animal to the owner. Again, I do not have any problem with this requirement. I would, however, remind owners that if they are enthusiastic about the other means of identification they can acquire them as well as the registration tag. My understanding-and the minister can correct me if I am wrong-is that the registration tag will be mandatory.

The opposition will support the bill.

MS DUNDAS (4.52): Mr Speaker, the ACT Democrats are opposing this bill. In the introduction speech this bill was described as finetuning some minor issues and making administration of the act simpler. I admit it is a difficult balancing act weighing up the rights of animals and their owners, the responsibility of the owners, the rights of members of the community not to be harassed or attacked by dogs in public places and the power of inspectors to try to enforce and protect these rights.

This bill seems to be a reaction to concerns within the department rather than concerns within the community. Following the introduction of this bill, I contacted both the RSPCA and Animal Liberation as two key community groups in the protection and support of domestic animals. Neither organisation was aware of the bill or the government's approach to these so-called minor issues. This would signal to me that the department has driven this process without consultation with relevant non-government organisations.

The RSPCA expressed concern over the amount of power given to inspectors to seize nuisance animals without a warrant. I am informed that the RSPCA is unable to enter premises unless it has evidence of cruelty or imminent harm or death to an animal. This is quite different from the offence of a nuisance dog.

Animal Liberation was also troubled that nuisance animals could be seized without a warrant, noting that there is a huge difference between a nuisance animal and a dangerous animal or an animal at risk of abuse or neglect. Animal Liberation points out, "Unfortunately some people do not understand dogs, and for this reason even playful dogs' behaviour can be misinterpreted as dangerous, harassing or nuisance behaviour."

Also of concern is that if an unregistered dog is seized and declared dangerous before or after it is seized then that dog cannot be released until the keeper is charged with an offence, criminal proceedings completed, et cetera . Animal Liberation's fear, which I support, is that if a low-income earner, possibly an unemployed person or an aged

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