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Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2022 (No 42)

Wednesday 9 November 2022, Second reading speech

[8.39 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - This amendment bill does represent a move towards better animal welfare legislation. Like others, I appreciated the briefings today too and it was interesting. I am not going to go into the pronged collars particularly yet but it was interesting in the briefings because they were mainly about that. Hearing from the trainers and from young Ben, I thought he was particularly good. My understanding at the time, I did not realise that these collars were available for other people in the community apart from trainers. I assumed that trainers were the only ones that used them and they only used them when they were training the dog and they did not stay on their necks, but I will get back to those shortly.

Going to some of the other areas of the bill. I believe it does strengthen the bill. Presumption of control, custody, that the act will be amended to enable an allegation and prosecution complaint for the specified person in control. I note that currently a person in charge of an animal can simply deny ownership, which make investigations and prosecutions obviously difficult and somewhat expensive in many cases.

Power to take possession of animals: that is important that the act is amended to enable an officer to take possession of an animal if they believe that the animal requires medical attention, that it suffering or its life is in danger and a few other reasons here. It is important that they can actually take control. How often do we hear that they are told of a problem with an animal but they do not have the ability to seize and take the animal?

The emergency entry power. That is important, particularly with floods in other areas, if someone might not be there, that they do have the power to enter premises, including dwellings in an emergency, such as fire or flood, and provide immediate assistance to animals in urgent need. I am sure everyone here would agree, if that is the case, you should be able to go in and protect those animals.

To reduce the time of carcases for euthanased animals. To think that they have to keep them for seven days, so 48 hours, two days is still a substantial time and obviously a good move.

Amending the act to clarify the meaning of disposal to include euthanasia, sale or rehoming of animals.

The cost for pre-trial: the act amended to provide for early pre-trial cost recovery. I am quite sure that some of them have been held for some period of time, and as we all know, animals are not cheap to keep. It is an important part of the bill, the amendment that they can actually recover some costs.

Getting on to the part from the RSPCA, and Jan Davis from the RSPCA has mentioned that she would be happy for me to read her email.

The Draft Animal Welfare Act Amendment is currently before the Parliament. The amendments proposed in this bill ensure that Tasmania is moving to a best practice, contemporary and effective regulatory system that protects and promotes the welfare of animals; prevents and deters cruelty to animals and responds appropriately to animal welfare abuses.

We worked closely with the Government to bring these amendments forward. The Government's commitment to the changes was evident in the wide community consultation process which resulted in some further refinement of the proposed amendments. We urge you to support this bill when it comes before you.

The Tasmanian Animal Welfare Act came into effect in 1993. That is a long time ago, and the world is a very different place 30 years on. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to this act since it was introduced. There was an attempt in 2014 to implement some changes but these unfortunately failed in the parliament. As a result, this legislation has not kept pace with changing community attitudes and expectations.

Responses to the proposed changes from the community have been overwhelmingly positive. The only dissent has come from a small number of dog trainers who are opposed to the banning of pronged collars. They believe dogs can only be trained by using these cruel collars. Not all trainers agree. Contemporary practice in training focuses on reward-based methods, rather than this outdated aversive methodology.

Regardless of what preferred training method someone may subscribe to, it is illegal to cause pain and suffering to an animal, and there is no doubt that these collars do that. There is a reason why we no longer hit children. Aversive therapy will no doubt change behaviours but at what cost?

Most of the submissions made to the draft bill, indicate that these changes don't go far enough, and we agree. These amendments are intended to start bringing Tasmania up to the standard of other states where a range of reforms have been ongoing for several years. However, these changes are just the start in making sure that our laws provide Tasmanian animals with the best possible protection.

Over recent years, there have been incremental improvements to animal welfare legislation in other jurisdictions. The Victorian Government has in fact tabled in parliament a major update to their legislation just this month. In some cases, these changes have been amendments as we see here, in others they have involved a clean sheet approach to rewriting legislation. We are firmly committed to the need to work through both approaches in Tasmania. It is important to move our current act towards best practice, however, while we are doing that, we also need to be thinking about what animal welfare legislation might look like in another 30 years. Recognising that animals are sentient is a high priority, as is widening the scope of other legislation to reflect the importance of the relationship people have with their companion animals and insuring better physical and mental wellbeing.

Once these amendments come into effect, RSPCA Tasmania is hoping to see further reforms, and please feel free to contact me.

Jan Davis,


RSPCA Tasmania.

The other information I received and do not believe the member for Murchison read in, the executive summary from the Tasmanian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

The question I have for the Leader and I am not sure whether you can answer it - some of the questions were asked by the member for Murchison too - the more concern I also have is with the pronged collar.

I understand and appreciate the briefings, particularly from young Ben. I thought the video he made was excellent and he explained it well. My understanding at the time was that the pronged collars, with someone like Ben, were simply while they were training that dog, the aversion to do the wrong thing. I did not have an understanding that dog continues to wear that collar and that is where I am a little confused. From what we have heard now and some of the other advice - it might have been the other chap talking about if people are out in the street and they need that dog to behave, then the pronged collar makes them behave. My thought process was they go off to be trained, they are a badly behaved dog, they go off to be trained, the aversion therapy, they are fine, and then they are back as being a good member of society, not that they are still wearing a pronged collar.

Once that pronged collar comes off - the member for Mersey with the example of the little old lady with the dog that she goes out and she pulls it. What happens when she goes home and she takes that collar off? To me, I can understand that with a dog with aversion therapy, but I am not sure the temperament of the dog changes. I understand they are changing their behaviour because of fear of the collar and what is going to happen when the collar is on, but surely there are times when you must remove that collar? You cannot leave the collar on the dog 24‑7. When it no longer has the collar on and it knows the collar is not on and the fear is not there, that dog still has that same temperament.

Ms Rattray - You might not have the distraction of the chickens and the other dogs and people it is not used to and perhaps that is why it does not act up at home.

Ms ARMITAGE - You might not, but you really do not know, do you?

Ms Rattray - No. A chicken could get out of the chicken yard.

Ms ARMITAGE - It might not be a chicken, it might be a child and we all know what children can do to dogs. They can make dogs react and most of the time that is not the dog's fault. Sometimes, some of the behaviour that they do, the poor old dogs. I am not sure that you can answer it, minister, about whether the collars are on - whether the collars are on all the time or whether it is only when they are training. I could probably almost accept an amendment that only trainers have them.

Mr Gaffney - In my conversation with Ben, there are some times that within the home environment they are not needed to be on, but if the lady or a young person wants to take the dog for a walk, for the safety of the other people, the border collie might run and they may have the collar on to stop that behavior out on the streets.

Ms ARMITAGE - In that case, that dog has not been retrained then. I would have thought, if you have gone to a trainer and you have been retrained, you should not need that collar again. However, if you need that collar when you go out on that street, then you are not retrained, because you still need the collar.

Mr Gaffney - It is not a danger, it is not hurting it, it is like going horseriding and having a bit on a horse so it does not throw its head.

Ms ARMITAGE - Ask the member for MacIntyre, I put the collar on her arm and she said it hurt.

Ms Rattray - You pulled it tight.

Mr Gaffney - And she does not have a hairy arm.

Ms Forrest - Lucky it was not around her neck then.

Ms ARMITAGE - I am not sure, but if you still have to put that collar on when that dog goes out on the street then, to me, that dog is no different. If it still has to wear a pronged collar when it is going out with a child or anyone, so that it does not do something then, in my view, it has not been retrained. I am little confused there. If I had known more about that, I would have asked more questions then but I was not aware of that.

I notice too that Queensland currently has similar legislation before them. Victoria has banned it.

Ms Rattray - Victoria have had theirs in place since 2008.

Ms ARMITAGE - Quebec has banned; New Zealand has banned; Austria has banned. I also had the question about the police. Some of the advice that came into us said that a lot of police dogs were trained with pronged collars. The other information I could see was that our Tasmanian police dogs were trained in Victoria; so I am a bit confused. I am trying to get some clarity.

Mr Gaffney - Through you, Mr President, it would be a good question to ask the minister. I forgot about New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia - what are their laws? I know that in England, UK and America there is no ban on pronged collars. Whilst they have chosen Victoria in 2008 and Queensland, I would be interested to know what are the rules in New South Wales, WA and South Australia, and to find out which states have bans on pronged collars.

Ms ARMITAGE - My concern is more that the dog is trained; and my thought was that it did not need a pronged collar again. I was a bit surprised that when it goes home, it still needs that collar. To me, that is not a trained dog. You should be able to put a normal collar on it rather than inflicting pain on it all the time. Why would you put it on to have it trained if it still has to have a collar when it goes home? I am concerned when you take it off, that it does not have that fear.

I am a little confused here and I am assuming the member for Mersey will have an amendment to do with it. I am looking forward to hearing other members, because that is the main issue I have with the bill. At the moment, I am leaning towards supporting the bill as it is and listening to the RSPCA. I appreciated the information received.

I appreciated young Ben coming in. I wish I had more of an understanding, when he was there, that they were wearing collars the whole time, because I did not appreciate that at the time. I am happy to hear other members comments and see which way I lean towards those collars and any amendments.


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