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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3683 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

pensioner has their dog seized, they may be faced with monetary penalties due to offences and monetary fees for registration, and the dog will continue to be held until all fees are paid, which in some situations may not be at all.

The ACT Democrats oppose the introduction of such sweeping powers. We think that allowing pets to be seized without a warrant and without the consent of their owners and having the pets locked up until all outstanding bills are paid will mean that some pet owners go through enormous stress, psychological loss and possibly huge financial difficulties to have their pets returned.

Low-income earners such as pensioners will have trouble with these provisions, which is concerning, as there is much research on the value of pets to older people and people who live alone. Pets provide much more than comfort. We know that pets provide companionship, affection and fun. For people with a limited human support system, these attributes are particularly important. Pets can counter depression and loneliness and serve as a social bridge to other people.

This bill, like the Plant Diseases Bill, extends powers to inspectors. I would encourage the minister to read the relevant scrutiny of bills committee report and assess whether it is necessary for Urban Services inspectors to have the ability to enter premises without a warrant.

The minister has said that there needs to be uniformity under all acts. I agree that this would be administratively simpler, but I do not agree that uniformity must mean giving inspectors power at such a high level. So I ask, as I did in regard to plants diseases: Minister, please consider whether it is necessary for such power as to enable inspectors to enter premises and seize animals without a warrant?

I look forward to the results of the review that you said is coming.

MS TUCKER (4.56): This bill contains a range of amendments to the domestic animals legislation that was introduced over a year ago. These amendments finetune some of the provisions of the act in light of the experience gained in implementing the legislation. There is no doubt that domestic cats and dogs form an important part of many people's daily life. For others, though, they can be a nuisance and even a danger, as well as impacting negatively on other animals and the environment more generally. Legislation to control cats and dogs will always have to be a balancing act between the rights and responsibilities of the pet owner, the welfare needs of the animals, the rights of other people not to be disturbed by animal activity, and the need to protect the environment.

These amendments appear to be relatively minor and should clarify some of the detail in the act. For example, the bill makes it clear that dogs should wear registration tags whenever they are away from their normal home and should not be unrestrained on private property without the occupier's consent. The bill also clarifies the attacking and harassing offences and the provisions relating to the return of dogs after seizure.

One amendment which raises a broader legal issue is the amendment which empowers inspectors to enter private premises, without obtaining a warrant, to seize a nuisance animal. The purpose of requiring enforcement agencies to get a warrant from a magistrate is to provide an external check on these agencies so that they do not abuse

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