Animal Welfare Reform Committee Final Report

Bills, In Parliament, Speeches

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:53): I move:

That the report of the committee be noted.

It is with pleasure that I stand here to note the final report of the Joint Committee on the Statutes Amendment (Animal Welfare Reforms) Bill 2020. Before I spend some time going through the work of this committee, I also want to acknowledge the work that went into the formation of the bill that the committee looked at and, of course, the subsequent committee process.

In particular, I would like to thank Mia Aukland, an ICU nurse who is passionate about this issue. In her day job she takes on some hard tasks and in her volunteer time she has taken on this task, a very challenging one but I hope a very rewarding one. She has worked on this bill with me and my office for many years.

I also want to thank Paul Stevenson, who is the current CEO of the RSPCA in South Australia, as well as Richard Mussell, who was at the time we started this process the CEO of the Animal Welfare League in this state but is now actually the CEO of the RSPCA nationally. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding work of my former adviser, Yesha Joshi, who put many hours into this particular issue and was a vital part of bringing forward this legislation.

My thoughts are also with many animal welfare advocates, activists and organisations who helped create the foundation of the bill that this committee chose to inquire into. The joint committee was established pursuant to a resolution that was passed in this place, in the Legislative Council, on 22 July 2020 and concurred to by the House of Assembly the following day. I thank the government for their cooperation with that.

The joint committee’s function was to consider and report on the Statutes Amendment (Animal Welfare Reforms) Bill 2020. I recognise and thank the following members from the Legislative Council and that other place for their contribution to the report, namely, the Hon. Dr Nicola Centofanti MLC, Dr Susan Close MP, the member for Port Adelaide, and the member for Newland, Dr Richard Harvey MP. I was the only non-doctor on the entire committee. The committee staff performed their roles admirably, and I particularly want to thank Dr Merry Brown and the other non-doctor, Mr Phil Frensham.

The committee received 18 written submissions and we heard evidence from 25 different witnesses. The report makes 21 recommendations and they aim to improve the bill. They support the bill, but the aim of the bill to amend the Animal Welfare Act 1985 and the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 primarily found favour with the committee. That seeks to reduce the number of dogs and cats needlessly euthanased by rescues and shelters. It will create a code of practice and licensing requirements for animal rescues, for shelters and for rehousing organisations. It inserts civil provisions to enable proactive actions that will better protect the welfare of animals and it creates special provisions in relation to the transparency around the reporting of data on greyhounds in our state.

Those who made submissions were strongly supportive of the bill in the main, but some raised concerns about some aspects of the bill in its then form, including a lack of clarity on some of the terms contained within the bill and that some of the terms were inconsistent between the bill, the Animal Welfare Act 1985 and the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995, particularly the definition of ‘owner’ in clause 5 of the bill. Stakeholders were keen to ensure that we explored including joint owners and organisations that were responsible for animals in that definition of owner, as well as seeing a consistency in the definition of owner between the acts, which does not currently exist.

The lack of provision to mandate the requirement to develop a code of practice was also of concern. Stakeholders pointed out that it was a critical provision in the bill that should be mandated, and highlighted their interest in being involved in the development of such a code of practice. So there is some work ahead, I believe.

Regarding the regulation and administration of licensing arrangements, although there were concerns raised about the amount of the licensing fee and ability of the regulators to carry out inspections, most submitters were supportive of licensing arrangements for animal rescues, for shelters and for rehousing organisations.

There was an exploration of the provisions for interim and intervention orders to protect animals. Stakeholders, and particularly the regulators, were really supportive of civil provisions to proactively enable the better protection of the welfare of animals in this state. The committee heard from the RSPCA that around 35 per cent of animal welfare cases could potentially be directed from the criminal jurisdiction into a civil one.

The committee investigated the methods of euthanasia, and stakeholders were passionate in their comments on the methods of euthanasia and with ensuring that clarity was sought for a number of terms regarding that in the bill. The committee was very keen to ensure that the provision did not constrain veterinarians from carrying out the most appropriate practices when euthanasing animals. I must again acknowledge the work of the Hon. Dr Nicola Centofanti in bringing that wealth of experience to this committee.

The committee explored provisions on the responsibility of providing publicly available data on greyhounds. Greyhound Racing SA told the committee that the publication of data on greyhounds in their report negated the need for legislation to reinforce that publication. They have voluntarily been reporting some of this data in recent years. The committee, although acknowledging the volunteer efforts of Greyhound Racing SA in this regard, and improved practice in recent years, found that the transparency and consistency of data provision would be much more improved by the mandating of that data in its annual reporting to the minister.

The committee also heard about a number of issues relating of breeders of cats and dogs, and we acknowledge that a review of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 will be undertaken by the state government in the next year. Following deliberations in which the committee considered evidence, the committee decided that the most productive course of action was to report its findings in a form that can be readily adopted for future use, and that redrafting of the bill should be a priority consideration in our next parliament.

On behalf of the committee, I sincerely thank those stakeholders and interested parties who took part, whether they prepared a submission or presented as witnesses. In particular, in the gallery today I have Mia Aukland, that aforementioned ICU intensive care nurse, and her partner, Andrew Baum, and I particularly thank them for going above and beyond in the defence and protection of animals in our state.

This is a bill that is intended to be a step in the right direction and this report, I hope, goes a long way to ensuring that that direction is supported by all political stripes in this parliament. It will help modernise our animal welfare laws in our state, and where they lag behind those of other states will bring us up to at least level pegging. As a state we do need to reprioritise the prevention of animal cruelty so that it is in line with public expectations and because it is simply the right thing to do. Our animal welfare laws need to be enforced properly, and we need to better serve the animals they are intended to protect. With that, I commend the report to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. D.G.E. Hood.