Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 11 February 2010) . . Page.. 307 ..
cared for by all pet owners. I believe there are opportunities for all stakeholders in the community, including veterinarians, the RSPCA and the pet industry and the government to contribute to more responsible pet ownership.
This is an important step today, and I am sure there will be more opportunities to enhance animal welfare outcomes for domestic pets in the future. I look forward to contributing to further improvements in this area in my time in the Assembly. The foundation of all animal welfare, in respect of companion animals, is responsible pet ownership. I commend these changes to the Assembly.
MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (12.09): I am standing to close the debate on behalf of the Chief Minister. In doing so, Mr Speaker, I thank members for their comments during the debate. I thank them for their uncanny knowledge of 1970s pop music. The works of Ray Davies and Barry Manilow featured in this debate. So it is good to see that even on the important matter of domestic animals we are able to draw on our life experiences to bring forward meaningful contributions to this public debate.
As we have covered extensively in this debate, the Domestic Animals Amendment Bill addresses two areas of concern identified by the Registrar for Domestic Animals in the operation of the Domestic Animals Act 2000. The bill also seeks to make some housekeeping amendments to the act. The first area of concern related to the operation of section 55 of the act that provides that a keeper of a dog must compensate a person injured by, or who suffers damage caused by, their dog. I am advised that in any given year Domestic Animal Services investigates several hundred complaints involving dogs. A number of these incidents involve attacks that have resulted in injuries to people or other animals.
Generally, the majority of owners willingly provide their name and address to other parties without the involvement of the registrar or authorised officers. Unfortunately, however, a small minority of dog owners refuse to provide their names to victims. This is thwarting the intent of section 55 and preventing victims from obtaining compensation for their injury or their loss. So new section 55A will help simplify the process of obtaining compensation by providing aggrieved people with a simple and inexpensive means to access information held by the registrar. Presently, aggrieved persons are directed to the Freedom of Information Act 1989 to seek access to documents from the Registrar of Domestic Animals that might help identify the relevant dog owner.
Under section 41 of that act, documents containing personal information can be released if it is reasonable to do so. While the section has been subject to judicial consideration, the case law has not greatly clarified the operation of the section. Before documentation containing personal information can be released, section 27A of the FOI act requires the registrar to seek the views of a dog’s owner as to whether they would object to the release of their personal details.
Not surprisingly, Mr Speaker, the dog’s owner, the same owner who would have previously refused to cooperate or to pay compensation voluntarily, will object to the