Dog and Cat Management (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

19 May 2016
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Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 16:54 ): It is a pleasure to be able to speak this afternoon on the Dog and Cat Management (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2015. I have had a good wait this afternoon to have this opportunity to speak and I guess it is fair to say that the state has had quite a wait for this legislation to appear before the parliament. 

It is essentially an amendment of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995, and it is fair to say that that act, as legislation often does, had become quite outdated and did not necessarily meet the modern needs of dog and cat management, and certainly not the introduction and availability of knowledge and understanding of new science in the field. 

It is good to see it before the parliament but, as I said, it would have been good to see it earlier than it has actually arrived. As the member for Chaffey said earlier, it has been quite a work in process. Throughout the 2000s there have been attempts by members of this place to see the Dog and Cat Management Act updated, no more so than the efforts by the Hon. Dr Bob Such, former member for Fisher, who spent a significant amount of time lobbying to see an update of dog and cat management legislation in South Australia. I guess it is worthwhile at this time paying tribute to the Hon. Dr Such's efforts on this front. 

The need to have appropriate management legislation for companion animals has progressed through parliament initially as a select committee of our parliament, which the Hon. Dr Bob Such championed and brought into being back in 2012. That committee looked at the way our state's legislation dealt with companion animals and ways that it could be updated in order to ensure that our legislation in South Australia was as modern as it could be to give both state and local governments the opportunity to effectively manage and control dogs and cats in our community. 

The term 'companion animals' was a term that was used frequently by the select committee and I find that term to be quite interesting in that it is largely restricted to dogs and cats. In my household—and I have just been having a conversation with the Deputy Speaker about this while I was waiting to speak—does not have either a dog or a cat as a companion but we do have a house bunny named Pancakes. I have just had an extensive conversation with the Deputy Speaker about Pancakes. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I counselled you on Pancakes. 

Mr SPEIRS: I was counselled. We discussed how— 

An honourable member interjecting: 

Mr SPEIRS: Almost as relevant as the member for Hammond's previous speech about his staff member's dog. I was discussing the desexing of Pancakes and how it cost five times as much to desex her as it cost to purchase her, but it was something that we did willingly because she is a very important part of our household. She is fully litter trained as well. They are much smarter animals than you would think. Rabbits are actually more closely related to horses than rats or mice and should never be described as rodents. They are very good pets. 

Anyway, I digress, and I do not like to wander off on frolics of my own in speeches but, during my two years in parliament I have been trying to find an opportunity to talk about Pancakes in the house, and that opportunity arose today with dog and cat management, so there it is. Pancakes is officially on the record. She actually has an Instagram account with more followers than me—princesspancakesbun—and you can follow her, and anyone listening in the building can, and add to her 5,000 followers. I think she is more popular than any politician in South Australia on social media, so check her out. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: We can fix that. Pancakes vanishes. 

Mr SPEIRS: Yes, things like that—so check it out if you are on Instagram. Anyway, I am making a mockery of the parliamentary process. I will go back to my discussion on the dog and cat management bill. I want to reflect on a few items which are contained in this bill, which are receiving broadly bipartisan support from my side of politics. The area that I want to briefly discuss is puppy and cat farms, and the fact that the bill will make it illegal to sell a cat or a dog that a person has bred unless that person is a registered breeder. 

The hope from getting this brought into legislation is that puppy and cat farms will be appropriately dealt with in this state, and we will hopefully see the eradication of those because we know that significant unscrupulous practices are undertaken in puppy and cat farms in this state. Animal welfare is not something that many of these farms have at the top of their list of priorities; rather, profit-making is what they are all about. We have seen, on current affairs programs screened on television in the last couple of years, some very unfortunate practices being undertaken on puppy and cat farms. 

I know it is something that is brought up time and time again by constituents in the electorate of Bright, which I represent, and it is something that we as legislators here in parliament have to take very seriously. I know I speak for many people in my community when I speak out against puppy and cat farms and the abhorrent conditions that many animals endure in those environments. So, I applaud this legislation in attempting to tighten up on these farms, and I really hope that the appropriate legislative instruments are now in place to be able to target and deal with such farms. I look forward to seeing their eradication in South Australia because, unfortunately, they are present and they are a significant animal welfare issue in this state. 

The other area which is a very important part of this bill, in my view, is the introduction of mandatory desexing of dogs and cats. That will not only look at reducing the aggression in many pets because we know that, particularly when dogs are desexed, we tend to see their aggression levels substantially reduced. We know from studies in recent times that the incidence of aggression by dogs is actually increasing across the Western World. I did quite a bit of reading on this when I was on the City of Marion council, and during my time in council there was an increase in aggression from dogs and dog attacks in our community and that is a problem. 

We know that something that goes a long way to reducing that level of aggression in dogs is having them desexed, so mandatory desexing will assist significantly with that. Mandatory desexing will also, hopefully, significantly reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats in our community. Unwanted dogs and cats can lead to not only mistreatment of those animals, but also the abandonment of those animals, and that is not good for the animals. It is not a great thing to be going on in our communities. It also has a significant environmental impact, particularly when it comes to cats. 

We know about the abandonment of cats, and cats getting out into conservation areas, into rural areas, and into our Hills Face Zone. In my electorate, along the coastal zone, there is quite a problem with abandoned cats and feral cats living along Adelaide's coastline, living in the rocks and crevices along the coastline. There have been problems down at Somerton Park and at Brighton, in the rock walls there, and certainly from Marino through to Hallett Cove where the coast is a bit wilder with the two conservation parks at Marino and Hallett Cove. 

There are real and significant problems in my community, but I know that problem extends into the Hills Face Zone, into the Hills, and into rural and regional South Australia, where cats which have been abandoned, which have gone feral, can become an even more significant environmental problem. It is no secret that one of the most significant environmental problems in Australia today is the existence of a substantial feral cat population which really is marauding through our countryside and causing huge environmental damage, particularly to native birdlife and native wildlife. 

There is strong evidence to suggest that feral cats have resulted in the extinction of at least 20 Australian mammals, and they are only the ones we can directly attribute to the impact of feral cats. It is no doubt a problem that exists in our own environment at the moment and something that hopefully this bill will do something to reduce, in terms of unwanted cats being abandoned or tipped out into the community and into the countryside. 

I believe there is also a need for our state government, for our local councils, and for our federal government to tackle the problem of feral cats out there in our Australian environment. I know there is federal money available for the control of feral cats, but that is perhaps not always on our radar. It is something that I think we should really be putting a lot of emphasis on, from an environmental perspective, to deal with it because there is an epidemic of feral cats out in the Australian environment. 

In closing, I want to briefly touch on the opportunities that come from this bill moving forward, as I presume it will move into legislation very quickly from this afternoon. There are a number of opportunities for local government to take this act and really run with it and do good things with it. There is an opportunity, from talking to people on the Dog and Cat Management Board, for local government to look at an electronic implementation system that will see a whole-of-council approach to dog and cat management. This bill creates an opportunity for that, and would benefit hugely from councils getting on board as one rather than fragmented across 68 councils in South Australia and actually coming together and saying, 'How can we bring in an information management system that can help dog and cat management in South Australia?' 

There are examples of this in other areas of local government at the moment, including the One Library system, so they have shown that they can do this sort of thing. It would be great to see them come together and have a single data management system for dog and cat management covering registration of dogs and cats and having a really good statewide database of what is happening with regard to dog and cat management. 

The benefits of this would be broad. One of the most significant benefits would be if a dog or a cat happened to be lost, if it happened to wander off and cross council boundaries. If a dog was in Marino, say, in my electorate, and wandered a few hundred metres from its home and ended up in Kingston Park or Seacliff, and it was then picked up by the City of Holdfast Bay council, bearing in mind that it was registered in the City of Marion council, there is no guarantee that the City of Holdfast Bay council is going to be able to trace it back because it is not logged in their system. That dog might end up down in the RSPCA pound at Lonsdale or being held by the council, which just adds a whole layer of stress and potential cost to the process. It is a lot of stress for not only the animal but also the owners. 

There is an opportunity for a whole-of-state management system to overcome that problem. It is not just a problem that happens within council boundaries. If you were living in metropolitan Adelaide, you might go down to Victor Harbor for Christmas. Again, if you took your dog with you and it were to go missing down there and was picked up by the Victor Harbor council, they would have an opportunity to easily trace it back to the metropolitan owner if there was a whole-of-state data management and registration system for dogs and cats. 

I would really like to see local government, hopefully led by the Local Government Association of South Australia, actually take that on as a challenge because if they start developing their own systems in line with this new act there will be the problem of unscrambling the egg. We could end up with 68 different management systems all across the state and the opportunity will be lost because councils will not want to then, down the track, merge systems and move towards a whole-of-state system. 

I think there is a really good opportunity now and in the coming months for the Local Government Association to say to councils, 'We are going to lead this project. Let's gather together some money and actually have a centralised process for dog and cat management.' The new act provides a catalyst for that opportunity, and it would be great to see them run with it. That is a challenge for the Local Government Association and hopefully councils will get on board with them. They are far better placed to manage 68 different jurisdictions than any other body, so I would definitely commend that as a challenge to the Local Government Association of South Australia. 

In closing, I would like to thank all of those who have been involved in the development of this amendment bill, particularly the Dog and Cat Management Board itself and the staff of the Dog and Cat Management Board. To Andrew Lamb, who is here today, thank you for your work on this. 

I would particularly like to pay tribute to my good friend and former colleague in the City of Marion council, Dr Felicity-ann Lewis, who is now the chair of the Dog and Cat Management Board. I would like to thank her for her work on this. Felicity-ann is always someone who, if you want something to happen, you can give it to her and she will drive it through. She has definitely had a lot of passion for the Dog and Cat Management Board reform and the legislative change they are now proposing through this act. I would like to thank Felicity-Ann for her work and commend the Dog and Cat Management (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2015 to the house. 

Extracted from Hansard