Dog and Cat Management (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: This bill aims to address the distressing alleged treatment of animals in puppy and kitten farms and the equally outrageous high rates of euthanasia of dogs and cats. It proposes a range of measures, including greater power for councils to manage dogs; additional powers to manage cats, subject to each council’s discretion; mandatory micro chipping of all cats and dogs; mandatory desexing of cats and dogs; greater evidence-collecting powers for councils; increased expiations and penalties; and registration of breeders.

Dignity for Disability certainly supports all these measures in principle and understands that, as it is appropriate, some specific measures, such as the prescribed ages for micro chipping and desexing, are to be set by regulation, and I understand there are some further amendments to that which certainly are worth consideration, I believe. While I think the desexing of animals is important, we certainly do not want to create a situation where they are being subjected to that prior to the appropriate age or in a way that leads to any further complications.

A further measure proposed by the bill is worthy of particular support, namely, the proposal to amend section 21A relating to the accreditation of assistance dogs. The act now provides for accreditation of ‘disability dogs, guide dogs or hearing dogs’ to enable the dog to accompany their handler, a person with a disability, on public transport or in a shop or restaurant, for example. However, the act currently stipulates that the Dog and Cat Management Board must accredit such a dog, even if it has already been trained and accredited by a relevant body, such as the Royal Society for the Blind.

This bill proposes to make that easier and to improve this, first, by replacing the somewhat outdated terms ‘disability dog, guide dog and hearing dog’ with the overarching term ‘assistance dog’. Secondly, it proposes that an assistance dog may be accredited by the Dog and Cat Management Board or another prescribed accreditation body where relevant, such as the Royal Society for the Blind, Guide Dogs, or Lions Hearing Dogs, for example. It needs to be accredited by one or the other, rather than both.

The bill provides that additional accreditation bodies be prescribed by regulation. It appears that the proposed amendments to the process for accrediting dogs could cut down the time and cost of the process of accrediting an assistance dog to a person with a relevant disability, and on that basis Dignity for Disability fully supports that measure. Nonetheless, I take the opportunity to point out that this reform could go much further.

More than one constituent has informed my office of issues relating to assistance and/or therapy animals, that is, dogs, cats or other animals used as aides to physical, emotional or psychological support or therapy. Such animal-assisted therapy, animal-assisted intervention or animal-assisted activity or companion animals, is recognised to varying extents by some interstate and overseas jurisdictions, including New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT, the commonwealth, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America, as well as New Zealand.

I appreciate that the Dog and Cat Management Act may or may not be the best vehicle for legislating for greater recognition of companion and therapy animals; nevertheless, with these few words I wish to flag that there is still ongoing work to be done beyond recognised assistance animals, and I am very happy to be a part of those discussions to enable people with disabilities and other conditions to take full advantage of the many therapeutic qualities of having animals in their lives, which may or may not fit under the term ‘assistance animals’.

I hope that we can continue to see that those benefits are increasingly recognised, and I am happy to work on that alongside any member in coming times. With those words, on behalf of Dignity for Disability, I support the bill.