Animal welfare laws in Australia are governed at the state and territory level. As such, there are eight separate animal welfare statutes, all of which seek to prohibit animal cruelty and promote animal welfare within their respective jurisdictions. While the fundamental objectives of the different state and territory laws are largely the same, the manner in which each statute seeks to implement these objectives varies considerably.
In the interests of facilitating national consistency in animal welfare legislation, RSPCA Australia has developed a position paper (attached below) which outlines the key requirements for a ‘model Animal Care and Protection Act’. These requirements include:
- The recognition of animals as sentient beings with intrinsic value;
- An absolute prohibition on all forms of animal cruelty;
- The promotion of animal welfare through the imposition of positive duties that are based on the ‘five freedoms’;
- Enforcement mechanisms which provide for both educational and punitive responses to animal welfare offences;
- Procedural mechanisms which promote the efficient and effective enforcement of the legislation; and
- Governance mechanisms which promote the legitimacy of the regulatory framework, particularly in relation to the values of procedural fairness, accountability, and compliance with legislative mandates.
The position paper is intended to be of use to people who wish to contribute to improving the animal welfare law operating in their state or territory. Animal welfare laws are generally reviewed by state and territory governments on a routine basis (usually every five years) and submissions are sought from individuals and organisations during such reviews. However, if you are concerned about a particular aspect of the animal welfare law operating in your state, you do not have to wait for a formal government review to provide your opinion. You can express your concerns at any time by contacting the following:
- your local state member of parliament;
- the minister responsible for animal welfare legislation in your state;
- the government department responsible for animal welfare legislation in your state.