Page 3797 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 28 October 2015

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Under the Animal Welfare Act 1992 the ACT government is required to provide animal welfare services across the territory. The government has engaged the RSPCA to deliver a range of legislative responsibilities on its behalf over a number of years under a service funding agreement. The ACT government committed an additional $256,000 on top of the already allocated base funding of $442,124 in this year’s budget to assist the RSPCA in the work they undertake on behalf of the government—a total just shy of $700,000. This is a considerable funding commitment and one that demonstrates the government’s ongoing commitment to animal welfare in the territory.

An additional $178,000 was also allocated in this year’s budget to the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate specifically to improve the provision of animal welfare and animal management services in the ACT. Under the current arrangements the RSPCA is responsible for the provision of an animal shelter, which includes providing care for stray and surrendered cats, dogs and other domestic animals, and housing seized, surrendered, stray and injured cats and dogs. They are also responsible for an animal welfare inspectorate, with responsibilities which include responding to and investigating allegations of neglect, suffering and the abuse of animals, referring for prosecution alleged offenders for breaches of the Animal Welfare Act, and providing shelter and care for seized animals. A third area of responsibility is providing education to the ACT community to promote responsible pet ownership and the importance of animal welfare.

In addition to the work undertaken by the RSPCA ACT the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate has officers who are responsible for ensuring the welfare of animals in the territory. The government is currently working on a broad range of management strategies that include the delivery of animal welfare services in the ACT. Going to point (2)(a) in Ms Fitzharris’s motion, which calls on the government to develop a long-term strategy for the delivery of animal welfare services, I can assure members that this work is underway. This work has been happening in discussion with the RSPCA. It would be fair to say that the RSPCA has been considering what the correct role is for itself, what services it would like to deliver into the future, what services government might be required to deliver and what level of funding goes with those services. There is a whole series of questions there, and I can assure members that that work is already underway. It is certainly not at a point of conclusion whereby I can provide a full update this evening but it must be completed in time for next year’s budget, so I am quite happy to agree with the suggestion Ms Fitzharris makes of bringing something to the Assembly by the last sitting day in March 2016.

That will be subject to working with some external stakeholders. Members, I flag now that if by March it is not quite ready, I will update the Assembly and say, “It’s going to take another two months or so.” Clearly, it must be done inside this financial year. I can assure members that that will be the case, even if the timing is such that perhaps it is not quite done by the last sitting day in March.

Mr Coe asked about the facility at Symonston. He is correct that Minister Barr and I committed in 2013 to provide a significant sum to support the construction of a new shelter, for want of a better word, which would combine the RSPCA and the pound. The RSPCA and TAMS have worked together to come up with a service delivery

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