Disability MP Says Dog Law a Stunt

By Lauren Novak
Published in The Adelaide Advertiser, page 3

DIGNITY for Disability MP Kelly Vincent says the State Government’s move to enforce harsher penalties for hurting police or assistance animals is a “gratuitous media stunt” intended to distract from the ongoing school sex abuse scandal.

The government has introduced laws which would jail for a maximum of five years anyone who intentionally kills or injures police or guide dogs and make them pay veterinary and retraining costs.

The laws would also make it an offence to harass or interfere with the duties of the animal or the handler. The move followed outrage after police dog Koda was stabbed in August while pursuing an alleged thief.

However, Ms Vincent will today tell Parliament animal welfare laws already offer enough protection and the government’s legislation is a “populist” attempt to divert at- tention from a raft of child sex abuse cases in schools.

“While the State Government’s Education Department lurches from one child abuse crisis to the next, the Premier wastes everyone’s time and taxpayers’ money making up new laws that are already covered by existing legislation,” Ms Vincent said.

“Passing a populist law to protect working dogs will offer no additional protection to those animals. “We are not here to pass well-meaning but totally unnecessary kneejerk laws, we are not here to pass laws that amount to gratuitous government media stunts.”

Ms Vincent is the first person in a wheelchair elected to State Parliament, who many expected to support the legislation as it pertains to animals which assist the disabled.

Attorney General John Rau said it was “disappointing that Ms Vincent would politicise sexual abuse”. He questioned why she would not support a policy endorsed by Guide Dogs SA and requested by SA Police.

In a submission to Mr Rau, former Law Society of SA president John White argues the existing Animal Welfare Act 1985 contains “severe penalties” of up to four years’ jail and fines of up to $40,000. “The existing Act is wide enough to cover working animals,” he writes. “To introduce yet more offences can only complicate the law and its enforcement.” “One incident (Koda’s attack) is not an appropriate basis for rushed legislation.”