On Thursday 11 October 2017 the Minister for Agriculture and Food in WA, the Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC, introduced the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2017 (WA) (the Bill) into the Legislative Council. The Bill makes amendments to the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA) (the AW Act) enabling WA to legally enforce national welfare standards for livestock so bringing WA in line with the rest of the country, excluding the ACT.
In her second reading speech on the Bill, the Minister noted the current AW Act was very "limited" in its capacity to regulate matters which related to the health, safety and welfare of animals, and said:
The Bill is to make changes to the AW Act in five important areas, as follows:
(1) The Bill will make additional provision for "prescribed acts of cruelty" to an animal by a person in charge of the animal. These changes, together with the existing general provisions for prescribed acts of cruelty by a person, whether or not that person is in charge of the animal, according to the Minister, will be used to implement, by regulation, the mandatory part of the NSG (required because the ‘guidelines’ in the NSG refer to practices that are desirable but not mandatory).
(2) The Bill will provide for a power to "limit the application of current defences" and prescribe new defences to a charge of cruelty.
(3) The Bill inserts a new Division relating to offences against animals and the power to make Regulations. The AW Act does not currently authorise regulations providing for the health, safety and welfare of animals and related matters. The Bill corrects this in Part 3 (Welfare, safety and health of animals - offences against animals) by restructuring it to include a new Division and clearly provide for regulations to be made dealing with matters that are, or are likely to be encompassed by current and future NSG Standards.
(4) The Bill makes changes to provisions relating to codes of practice - this is done to simplify the operation of the AW Act. The Bill will provide for codes of practice to be prescribed for the purposes for which they are intended to operate, that is, as either a defence or as a guide to the courts. Previously these two distinct purposes of the codes of practice adopted under the AW Act were linked and this, according to the Minister, caused confusion. The "guidelines" in the NSG Guidelines will be prescribed for the purpose of guiding the courts when considering cruelty offences.
(5) The Bill introduces a new class of inspectors (to be known a "general inspectors") who will have powers to enable monitoring of compliance with the AW Act. Under the AW Act at present, the powers of entry to non-residential places and vehicles without the owner/occupier’s consent are limited to where there is a reasonable suspicion of a cruelty offence or in limited circumstances under a warrant. There is currently no capacity to enter without the owner/occupier’s consent to investigate possible breaches of the regulations or to verify compliance with the AW Act in the absence of grounds to suspect a cruelty offence. The Bill will create the new class of general inspector, designated by the Minister and having the power to enter non-residential places and vehicles for the purpose of verifying compliance with the AW Act and regulations, as well as official directions and court orders.
Once enacted the success of the amendments made by the Bill to the AW Act will rely on the resulting regulations and the guidance provided by those regulations:
"The amendments to the Act are a tangible step towards improving the welfare of livestock in this State. New regulations will give industry and the community clear guidance on minimum standards to be met and will help to strengthen public confidence in the livestock sector."
The amendments to AW Act 2002 are reported as being the first of several planned by the WA government and the Minister, is further reported as saying, that the changes made by the Bill ". . . were long overdue and would act as a 'stop gap measure' while the government undertook a full review of the AW Act which is expected to take 18 months."
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Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2017 (WA) and second reading speech and supporting materials as reported in the TimeBase LawOne Service.
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