Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 March 2010) . . Page.. 1016 ..
broaden this. That is not to say that we do not take seriously the matters that Ms Le Couteur brought before us and discussed in her speech in support of her amendment, because obviously the welfare of all animals is important.
Mr Coe spoke about the importance of animals to our health. They are important to our health. One’s physical wellbeing is improved. If you get a dog, it forces you to get out every day and walk. It is also very calming, usually, unless your animal happens to be not well. It is also very calming to have a domestic animal at home. The importance of human-animal bonding is undeniable. Studies show that companion animals are beneficial to humans psychologically, socially and even physically. Research from the Baker Medical Research Institute in Victoria has estimated that pet ownership saves Australia up to $2.2 billion a year in health care, which is a stunning statistic, I think you would agree. Many nursing homes and indeed some health facilities have dogs as part of their programs. Some also have cats. More and more animals are being used to assist people at home. We already know how well they are utilised in assisting people with visual impairment, but they are also helping people with disabilities.
Mr Coe spent quite a bit of time in his speech talking about the RSPCA. I agree with him about the importance of their work. I commend them, Domestic Animal Services and all the other services that work to protect and care for animals—for instance, those that foster and rescue animals from time to time. I also commend the work of the many volunteers that are involved in those exercises at the RSPCA, Domestic Animal Services and the other services that I mentioned. The government continues to have discussions with the RSPCA. Mr Coe talked about their need for appropriate and new facilities. The government is acutely aware of this need and we are continuing to have those discussions with the RSPCA.
The motion, as I have demonstrated and as has been discussed by members, is in essence focused on the issue of responsible pet ownership. It would not do justice to animal welfare if all that was brought forward was the motion today. As Mr Hargreaves said, watch this space: we have more to bring before you. That is why we did not support the amendment of Ms Le Couteur at the time.
I agree that if we are serious about change we need to do more work. This is separate work that needs to be done. With respect to policy, however, we need to take small steps at a time and address the issues one tranche at a time. Of course, I support the welfare of all animals. I acknowledge there is important work to be done at all levels. I am pleased to note in this regard that the Assembly will soon debate a government bill that will allow for the introduction of mandatory codes of practice for the welfare of animals. Yes, Ms Le Couteur, I am advised that protection of all animals is included in the Animal Welfare Act.
Encouraging responsible pet ownership is, I believe, a profoundly important element in ensuring the welfare of animals. To ensure that animals have access to reasonable standards of welfare, it is necessary to define the minimum standards for the care of an animal as well as general protection, and work is going on in this area. These specific elements are included in the codes of practice for animal welfare. Mr Hargreaves has already read out to us the long list of codes for animal welfare that