Animal Welfare Act Review - Making the Law Better
RSPCA WA is calling for members of the public to have their say about the review of the State’s Animal Welfare Act 2002.
RSPCA WA is making submissions to the Animal Welfare Act Review Panel to highlight deficiencies in the law that currently restrict the operational effectiveness of RSPCA WA Inspectors, along with improvements to allow Inspectors to proactively prevent cruelty to animals.
What needs to change?
RSPCA WA would like to see changes to improve the work of Inspectors including:
1. Impose a duty of care on those in charge of animals
RSPCA WA would like the Act to put a positive duty on people in charge of animals to provide for the animals’ fundamental welfare needs with a breach of this duty possibly constituting an offence. This will ensure the community is aware of what is required for the proper treatment of animals.
2. Give RSPCA WA Inspectors the power to issue infringement notices
The power to issue infringement notices for minor offences increases enforcement options and compliance with the Act. If an infringement notice is issued, the offender would pay a fine without going to court. RSPCA WA Inspectors would still prosecute more serious offences through the court system.
3. Give Inspectors improved powers of entry
Currently, Inspectors can only enter a property in circumstances relating to a cruelty offence or with notice or consent from the person in charge. Improving powers of entry would make it easier for Inspectors to:
• Ensure people are complying with direction notices;
• Ensure people who are prohibited by a court order from being in charge of animals are not breaching that prohibition;
• Enter a property to assist distressed animals. For example, if a dog is seen caught stuck in the fence or otherwise at risk;
• Inspect facilities where animals are kept or used for commercial purposes at any time*; and
• Check compliance with regulations implementing animal welfare standards.
4. Make owners responsible for reclaiming their abandoned animals
Currently, when an Inspector seizes an animal due to abandonment, the Inspector must bring a civil application before the courts to forfeit the animal to the Crown so it can be rehomed (where appropriate). This process takes time and incurs considerable cost. Instead, the onus should be placed on the owner to respond to the Inspector within a specific time frame or the animal will be automatically forfeited to the Crown.
*please refer to this article about recent developments in the horse racing industry which also highlight the need for change in this regard.
Why does the law need to change?
RSPCA WA considers the above changes to the Animal Welfare Act 2002 to be essential to RSPCA WA Inspectors being able to enforce the law effectively, and to meet the community’s expectations of preventing animal cruelty in Western Australia.
RSPCA WA urges everyone who cares about the welfare of animals in WA to voice their support for change so that animals in WA can be better protected.
What can you do to help?
The Animal Welfare Act Review Panel has also held public forums in Broome, Karratha, Katanning and Perth.
You can contact your local Member of Parliament and let them know that animal welfare is a serious concern and an issue that you care about. Tell them that you expect them, as your representative in Parliament, to support proactive changes to the Animal Welfare Act 2002 to better protect animals in WA.
Who is on the panel and what will they be covering?
For more information about the Review, including the independent panel and the terms of reference, please visit the Department of Agriculture’s website: www.agric.wa.gov.au/animalwelfare/review-animal-welfare-act-2002.