Have Your Say on WA's Dog and Cat Laws
RSPCA WA welcomes the State Government’s decision to review the effectiveness of the Cat Act 2011 (Cat Act) and Dog Amendment Act 2013 (Dog Act).
Though separate from the Animal Welfare Act 2002, this legislation can have a real impact on animal welfare in important areas, such as responsible pet ownership, pet identification and traceability, community and animal safety, irresponsible and indiscriminate breeding, and the fate of impounded animals.
RSPCA WA encourages all members of the public who are pet owners, or those who simply care about the welfare of dogs and cats in our society, to have their say on this legislation by making a submission via mail or email, or by completing the online survey here.
The deadline for submissions is Sunday, 4 August 2019.
The Cat Act 2011 (Cat Act) and Dog Amendment Act 2013 (Dog Act), which are enforced by local government, cover issues which are commonly reported to RSPCA WA – including roaming cats, barking dogs, dog bites and attacks, and ownership disputes.
Many of these reports highlight deficiencies in the Cat and Dog Acts, and their implementation.
RSPCA WA’s submission to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries makes recommendations for improved cat and dog management legislation in WA.
RSPCA WA strongly recommends reform in the following key areas:
In 2018-19, RSPCA WA received reports of over 130 incidences of suspected deliberate poisoning. Many of these reports suggest barking dogs may have led to frustrated neighbours taking matters into their own hands. RSPCA WA recommends guidance materials on ‘nuisance’ barking be developed to help local governments employ effective, humane, evidence-based strategies. This could include training workshops and a guide for local governments, and a leaflet for residents. At present, different – and sometimes extremely risky – advice is being given to residents of different local government areas. RSPCA WA is very concerned by reports that aversive methods, like electric shock collars, are being used on barking dogs. We continue to call for a ban on these collars under the Animal Welfare Act 2002, as they are known to cause fear, pain and distress, and are proven to be ineffective in the long term.
RSPCA WA supports the introduction of cat curfews and restricting cats to premises for the welfare of cats and wildlife. RSPCA WA receives daily calls about ‘nuisance’ roaming cats, including threats and reports of harm. RSPCA Australia research has determined that 24-hour containment, rather than night-time curfews, are necessary to significantly reduce wildlife predation, breeding of unwanted cats and cat nuisance. Before laws on cat containment are implemented, owners should be educated about the benefits of this, and how to ensure the welfare of contained cats.
Dog Attacks, Dangerous Dogs and Restricted Breeds
The RSPCA does not support breed specific legislation, which is included in the Dog Act 1976. This legislation is based on flawed assumptions that certain breeds are inherently dangerous, that those breeds can be identified, and that banning those breeds decreases the rate of dog bites and attacks. None of these assumptions are evidence based. Dog behaviour is complex – arising partly as a result of inherited characteristics, but more importantly as a result of socialisation, rearing and training provided by its owner, the environment in which the dog is kept, and a given set of circumstances. To be effective, RSPCA WA recommends dog bite and dog attack legislation be developed focussing on community education, dog socialisation, reward-based training and behavioural modification where required.
In addition to these key points, RSPCA WA has also recommended some changes around general dog and cat management:
A centralised State database (as per the ‘Stop Puppy Farming’ reforms) be established for registered cats and dogs to ensure information (like microchip and owner details) is readily available to relevant parties, including local governments, veterinary surgeries, law enforcement and rescue organisations. This will help to locate owners of lost, stray and injured animals, and clarify ownership of animals where disputes arise.
The best interests of the animal be central to all regulations regarding animal management, to ensure animals remain with the people who are providing the best care for the animal.
Enforcement gaps, tackling inconsistencies between and within local government areas, need to be addressed to make these laws effective. This includes allocating resources to enable enforcement.
Euthanasia policies be standardised and rolled out across all local government areas to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to rehome suitable animals that come into pounds and shelters.