Breaking! Yesterday’s Passing Of Historic Legislation Recognizes Animals As Sentient Beings In Australia

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For the first time in Australia’s history, animals will be legally recognized as sentient beings that feel emotion and pain. The landmark Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 was passed into law yesterday by the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly (ACT Legislative Assembly). 

“These new laws will make the ACT a national leader in animal welfare, and reflects a zero tolerance approach to animal cruelty,” Minister for City Services Chris Steel, who secured the passage of Australia’s first animal welfare laws, said in a statement. “Modern animal welfare is about considering how an animal is coping both mentally and physically with the conditions in which it lives.”

Under the new laws, which will come into effect in six months, when serious animal abuse is committed, the Animal Welfare Authority can impose an interim ownership ban of up to six months. The Authority can also seize, retain, sell or rehome an animal when appropriate.

As per The Canberra Times, a $4,000 penalty will apply for not providing pets with appropriate food, water, shelter or a clean and hygienic environment. The fine also applies to people who confine their pet in an enclosed space for long periods of time, or otherwise restricting their movement.

People who take part in violent animal activities, such as dog fighting, could be fined up to $48,000 and face three years’ imprisonment.

The fines for such offenses will be issued by officers as part of the new escalating enforcement framework to deter further acts of cruelty from happening.

“These animal welfare laws reflect the values of the Canberra community on how we should manage and care for our domestic animals, livestock and wildlife,” continued Steel, who further explained that the new legislation will enable better enforcement of laws to protect animals.

While Steel mentions livestock and wildlife in his statement, as it stands now, the protection is primarily for domestic animals.

In addition, the new law sets out an accreditation framework for assistance animals for the first time in the ACT, dealing with the recognition and right of access of assistance or service animals to public places and premises. This includes assistance animals in training.

Under the new law, pet businesses will also be required to be licensed for the first time.

The ACT Legislative Assembly was granted self-government by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1988. Before self-government, the ACT was administered by the Federal Parliament.

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