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Alex is committed to government transparency and accountability; protecting the natural and urban environments, open space and Sydney’s unique heritage; retaining inner city social and affordable housing; the humane treatment of animals; improving transport options; and fairness and equality for the LGBTI communities.
 

Companion Animals Amendment

(Bills - Second Reading Debate, 6 June 2018, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I support the Companion Animals and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. It will introduce a number of companion animal reforms and my brief contribution will focus on changes that will improve oversight of the poorly regulated pet industry and changes that will encourage the desexing of cats.

The pet industry has a very dark side hidden behind the cute puppies and kittens—puppy farming and backyard breeding being one of its ugliest secrets. Puppy farming is designed to produce puppies en masse at the lowest price. Raids have uncovered appalling conditions, including overcrowding, filth, social isolation, lack of food and water, and overbreeding. Puppy farms and backyard breeding are out of sight and generally animal welfare breeches are uncovered only after tip-offs to enforcement officers. There is no general compliance regime that involves regular inspections and reporting.

More than 10 years ago my predecessor, Clover Moore, introduced legislation to ban the sale of pets in pet shops and limit classified sales to registered breeders and rescuers. The aim was to reduce the number of pets being abandoned and to cut off the profit outlets of puppy farms and backyard breeders.Both major parties opposed the bill. However, the then Coalition Opposition committed to hold an inquiry. When it came to Government in 2011, Clover moved to hold the Coalition to its promise with a motion to set up an inquiry. The Government opposed the motion but set up the Companion Animal Taskforce in response, and this was followed by the Joint Select Committee on Companion Animal Breeding Practices in New South Wales. This bill is a response to the committee's recommendations.

While not groundbreaking, the bill will improve oversight of breeding by requiring advertisements for the sale of a cat or dog to include an identifying number, such as, in the case of a breeder, the breeder's identification number; or, in the case of a rescuer, the rehoming organisation number; and, in the case of a person selling their cat or dog, the microchip number.

With these identifying numbers being readily available on the new pet register, enforcement officers will have data by which to monitor the number of animals being sold by a particular breeder or owner to assess whether there is overbreeding, puppy farming or backyard breeding.

Community members will also be able to follow advertisements and link data with breeders and provide reports to enforcement agencies. This will not provide the same level of protection as a mandatory breeder registration system, which was recommended by the Companion Animals Taskforce and supported by the committee of inquiry. A mandatory breeder registration system would place strong, enforceable obligations on breeders, require audits and inspections, and not rely on enforcement officers or community groups having to scan advertisements and collate data. Notwithstanding, the register provides an important improvement to the status quo, which currently gives cruel breeders free rein to sell their animals in classified ads with no oversight. I look forward to better outcomes for animals.

The other important change is the new mandatory annual permit of $80 for keeping a cat aged more than four months that is not desexed. Unwanted cat litters are a serious problem that can lead some people to dumping kittens in parks, on building sites, in the streets and in the bush where they harm wildlife, suffer poor health, are at risk of cruelty and indeed then breed more cats. An un-desexed female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in only seven years.I take this opportunity to again call on the House to pass laws to enable community groups to run trap, neuter and release [TNR] programs, without the risk of breaching abandonment laws. TNR programs are humane ways to stabilise and reduce cat colony populations.

I heard the comments of the member for Wagga Wagga about TNR in his contribution yesterday on the wild horses bill. He claimed that TNR should be banned because when the cats are returned to their colonies they continue to harm wildlife. This ignores the fact that TNR has proven to reduce cat numbers and that, because TNR is done by community volunteerswho would never kill animals, it happens in conjunction with other population control methods carried out by authorities, not instead of them. At an absolute minimum, TNR increases the proportion of street cats that are desexed and are not breeding.We must increase the number of desexed cats in the community.

Mandatory desexing laws are one way that should be considered, but I also support the approach in the bill to provide incentives for desexing. The council of the City of Sydney provides discounted pet desexing for residents with pensioner concession or healthcare cards. The Government should consider a similar statewide program to ensure that cost is not a hindrance for lower-income earners.Pets are a very important and big part of people's lives, including my and my husband's lives. We really love our pet dog, Max, who is a whippet and fox terrier cross rescue dog. I look forward to further reforms to improve the pet industry as well as to support responsible pet ownership. We need to allow pets on public transport and in apartment buildings, retirement villages, rental properties and, of course, in pubs. I support the bill.

 

To read the speeches of other Members on the subject, click HERE