My Say: Proposed Changes to the D&CMA

(This is post three in a series of four blog posts on proposed changes to dog laws in South Australia. Post One: Summary. Post Two: Breeder Code. Post Four: Mandatory Desexing.)

Submissions to the government’s proposed changes are due by the 26th June 2015.

In making a submission, you can do so by the YourSay website, or by:

Emailing: dogandcatreforms@sa.gov.au

Snail mailing:

Dog and Cat Reforms
Conservation and Land Management Branch
Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources
GPO Box 1046
Adelaide 5001

The YourSay website has three documents for download:

Overview of Proposed Changes to the Dog and Cat Management Act

Frequently Asked Questions

Dog and Cat Management Act Amendment Bill

DogsSA produced a document which shows the amendments against current legislation, which is far easier to read. I recommend that you download the act with amendments inserted.

 

First, let’s consider the responses to the online survey. The questions are listed below, along with my responses to those questions. You’re welcome to use these responses as a guide in formulating your own.

Survey Question One

It is proposed that all dogs and cats are microchipped so that they can be returned if lost. The specific proposals are:

1. All existing and new dogs and cats will need to be microchipped by a prescribed age. It is proposed that this age be three months.

2. Penalties will be imposed for owning a un-microchipped dog or cat and for not keeping your details with a microchip registry current.

3. Regulations will specify who can implant microchips in South Australia (a veterinarian or an appropriately trained person).

Some individuals object to microchipping. The legislation should say ‘microchipped or tattooed’ or ‘un-microchipped or un-tattooed’, etc, to allow individuals to choose how they wish for their animals to permanently identified.

The penalties proposed for owning an un-microchipped animal ($2500!) is excessively burdensome, especially when this legislation is being applied retrospectively. Individuals should be allowed to continue to own animals un-microchipped if they are of an age that predates the legislation. As it currently stands, pet owners would need to get their animals microchiped when this legislation comes in, and that could cost individuals out of legally owning their animals. Potentially, this legislation would criminalise the behaviour of normal pet owners.

 

Survey Question Two

It is proposed that anyone who breeds dogs and cats for sale will need to register with the Dog and Cat Management Board or through an approved organisation to assist in managing dogs and cats and help consumers to be confident their pet has come from healthy and humane conditions. There may be a fee to register as a breeder. The specific proposals are:

1. Anyone who breeds a dog or cat for sale will be defined as a ‘breeder’

2. A breeder will need to include their breeder registration number in any advertisements that are placed for the sale of a dog or cat, including online sales.

3. Penalties will be imposed for failing to register as a breeder.

It is an overstatement to claim that a breeder registration scheme will ‘help consumers to be confident their pet has come from healthy and humane conditions’.

While I do not object to these suggestions on the surface, I am concerned that a fee for breeder registration may unfairly disadvantaged small-scale breeders who do not make a profit from breeding animals. Further, I am pessimistic that breeder registration will be appropriately policed considering the failure of councils to effectively enforce dog registration.

 

Survey Question Three

It is proposed to increase fines and penalties for dog attack offenses, nuisance barking and wandering dogs as well as all other existing offences.

The fee increases for dogs wandering at large are inordinate, with the maximum penalty being up to $2500. This is a hugely excessive fee to impose upon individuals who may have had their dog escape in unfortunate circumstances (storm damage to fencing, contractors leaving a gate open, or thieves allowing the dog to escape during a burglary). Further, these increase in fees are problematic when taking into consideration section 62 which requires people retrieving their dog after seizure to pay before getting the dog back. Many individuals may be priced-out of getting their animal returned to them, and hence the dog is left in a facility where they may be at risk of euthanasia. Section 62 urgently needs to be rectified so animals are not euthanised when there are owners who want to claim them, but do not have the finances to do so. An increase in fines and penalties further adds to the risk of animals being euthanised in this circumstance.

 

Survey Question Four

It is proposed to simplify the dog registration process by introducing the new category of ‘Standard dog’. This is a dog that has been both microchipped and desexed. Dog registration fees for a ‘Standard dog’ will be much less than for other dogs. The specific proposals are:

1. The registration category of ‘Standard Dog’ is introduced (a dog that is microchipped and desexed)

2. The registration rebate for a dog that has been trained will be removed.

No, I do not support the proposal that rebates for trained dogs will be removed. Statistically, we know animals who have undertaken training are less likely to end up in animal shelters. Therefore, a financial incentive to train a dog (in order to receive registration discounts) should be encouraged.

 

Survey Question Five

It is proposed to replace the terms ‘Disability Dog’, ‘Guide Dog’, and ‘Hearing Dog’ and replace them with the term ‘Assistance Dog’. This change makes the South Australian terminology consistent with the rest of Australia. The specific proposals are:

1. Remove the term ‘Disability Dog’ and similar terms in favour of the nationally consistent term ‘Assistance Dog’.

2. Provide Assistance Dogs in training with ‘public access rights’ when accompanied by an accredited trainer

3. Broaden the range of bodies that can accredit Assistance Dogs.

I support or ambivalent about these changes.

 

Survey Question Six

11. Do you have further comments on the amendments to the Dog and Cat Management Act?

While I support the general idea that all animals should be microchipped, I am alarmed that the changes to the Act do not necessitate an authorised person and a facility to scan for a microchip on all animals impounded, and animals that are received deceased (e.g. road kill animals). This section urgently needs attention to ensure that microchips are being scanned by facilities. Section 61 needs to be amended to list the procedures for an seized animals. This should include, at least, that the animal is scanned for a microchip:

  • On two separate occasions,
  • By two different staff members, and
  • Using two different scanning devices.

Further, section 61 then needs to legislate that facilities and authorised persons respond to a microchip number when it is identified. At a minimal level, the animal’s microchip number should be checked on government databases (NSW and Victorian registries) and private databases (such as CAR, AAR, Pet Register, etc). If the microchip has data associated with it, the facility or authorised person must use all forms of contact on the chip in order to contact the owner and allow them the opportunity to reclaim their pet. In the case of postal mail, the owner should be given two weeks to respond before the dog is officially owned by the facility. (That is, the period of 72 hours is extended.) Without necessitating facilities to search for and use data associated with microchips, then microchipping is useless. This section of the Act urgently needs to be reviewed.

Greyhounds like Hannah will still have to wear a muzzle in public spaces, unless their owners pay a fee to have them 'green collar assessed'. The lesser talked about breed specific legislation in the country!

Greyhounds like Hannah will still have to wear a muzzle in public spaces, unless their owners pay a fee to have them ‘green collar assessed’. The lesser talked about breed specific legislation in the country! (PS: Read more about adopting Hannah.)

I am incredibly troubled by the proposed inclusion of the section titled 61A (which allows a holding facility to desex and microchip an animal in their care). It is unclear why this section of the legislation has been included. It does not specify a time limit from seizure to surgery – hence, a person with a dog roaming at large for several hours could have their dog seized and desexed before being returned. This is a huge violation of the rights of the owner to keep their dog entire if they see fit. This section must be amended to at least specify that desexing can only occur 72 hours after impoundment.

The proposed changes to section 64C (regarding greyhound laws) create a double-negative, and this makes the legislation unclear. The proposed change is redundant, as it does not change the meaning of the law.

Section 74 has not been amended. This allows cats to be ‘destroyed’ if found over 1km from a residence. It is heinous that we legalise the killing of cats when they are known to wander for distances greater than 1km, hence allowing peoples pets to lawfully be destroyed by others. This section should simply be removed.

It seems remarkably unfair, unjust, and morbid that Section 64 allows facilities to charge people for destroying their seized animal, yet Section 54(1b)(b) states that the owners cannot seek compensation for the destruction of their pet.  Further, Section 62 also adds to owner distress in that they must pay to reclaim their pet. Facilities and authorised persons should bill individuals but not restrict their access to their pet. This means that animals leave pound environments sooner, which is beneficial to their physical and psychological health, plus it reducing issues of space-based euthanasia for the facility.

I have mild concerns that the regulations mentioned in 71(1)(c) may be excessively burdensome to small-scale breeders, but this is yet to be seen.

 

The YourSay website also invites individuals to write a letter to this department. While I have done this as well, my letter basically duplicates the details written above in survey question six.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>