Page 5226 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 29 November 2017
The ACT Greens firmly believe in having robust protections for the community, for people and for animals as well. It is critical that when we consider any new policy we consider the impact on the vulnerable—the victims, the neighbours and the people with mental health issues—as well as thinking of the impact on those who cannot speak for themselves, the voiceless animals themselves. Sometimes their welfare is lost in these sorts of discussions. The Greens believe we have responsibilities for all sentient beings.
Mr Coe’s office has explained to me that the Canberra Liberals’ amendments are designed to deliver a certainty of direction for the domestic animals registrar and domestic animal services when they are confronted with a complaint regarding a dog attack. As we heard from Mr Coe in his opening speech, the substance of his amendments is in sections 53A to 53C, which create a hierarchy of potential consequences for a range of poor or dangerous dog behaviour on a spectrum of harassment, injury, serious injury and death. The consequences for these behaviours range from the termination of the dog, the imposition of a control order and the designation of the dog as dangerous, to the subsequent financial and practical consequences of this designation.
The government’s potential amendments broaden the scope of the review of the act and introduce a number of new and useful changes that will improve the operation of the act. With some of these I think the government are at a considerable advantage because they are the people who oversee the operation of the act on a daily basis. In saying that they have proposed some amendments which will be useful, I am not trying to make this a criticism of the Liberal Party. Because the government are running this area on a day-to-day basis, there are some issues that they have been able to take into account in a more practical way than the Liberal Party have in their bill. I want to make it clear that I am not seeing this as a failing of the Liberals’ bill.
The government’s amendments introduce, among other things, a public safety consideration and increased consideration of the behaviour of the dog owner as well as the behaviour of the animal. These are welcome additions. We worked with the government earlier this year on the animal welfare and management strategy and welcome Minister Fitzharris’s recent announcement of eight more domestic rangers for the directorate.
As with so many things, it is simply not good enough just to have good legislation. The best legislation in the world will not make any difference unless it is properly enforced. We have had this commentary and debate already regarding many different areas, but this is one area where it is clear that parts of the existing legislation are simply not being enforced. It is very important that, as well as passing good legislation today, the government allocates sufficient resources to ensure that it is properly implemented.
While the amended act will do different things in different situations, the one thing we can be sure of is that it will increase the number of dogs seized each year by animal rangers. The bill requires the registrar to investigate a written complaint and to seize and impound the dog in question for the duration of the complaint. Ms Fitzharris