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Animal welfare as a federal campaign issue 2013

Community expectations in relation to genuine animal welfare has well surpassed the legislative protections and conduct that is currently being used all over Australia.

Whether we approach this issue from the side of Live Trade, kill rates in pounds and shelters, legislative policing or even simple open and honest debate, we are as a nation falling behind community expectations, and in fact world standards.

It is therefore important that we lead by example on the world stage in relation to every aspect of animal welfare within our borders, in a compassionate and honest manner.

Breed specific legislation being increased around the country is typical if the knee jerk reactions to issues that could receive much more educated and compassionate approaches.

The policing of Animal welfare legislation and the issue of un-vetted seizure powers are left in the hands of a private charity, which has now grown into a massive corporate entity with their own financial self interest in control of legislative direction.

Council pounds that restrict life to 72 hours, and local bi-laws that restrict the ability of non kill shelters to operate are unacceptable, and none of the many issues we face will be addressed unless serious changes are forth coming.

New Zealand stopped their live trade industry in 2003, and their packaged meat trade continues to improve into Asia and the US in particular, Australia’s obligations to its animal welfare should continue also beyond our borders, the very fact live export has failed so many times to adequately protect our livestock welfare, only goes to prove the trade in live animals must be phased out.

Government support for companion animals starts and stops with the RSPCA, in regards to policing animal welfare legislation and tax payer funding, while many privately funded rescue groups, shelters and Sanctuaries are not only ignored but forced to deal with increased costs and red tape to even exist, with much of this inflicted by the RSPCA themselves.

Charity laws that attack Lamington drives and fundraising for smaller shelter and rescue groups are also overzealous and wrongly directed.

The policing of animal welfare being hand balled to a single charity organisation, that does not answer to any external scrutiny was always going to be a dangerous move, but with the growth of that organisation into a huge corporate entity with such huge self interest in the animal industry at every level, has proven a complete disaster.

Any tax payer funded organisation that can brag multimillion dollars surpluses, while they maintain such huge euthanasia rates as they like to call them, is not the example that should be set for the rest of the industry.

A quick glance over published success rates in companion animal re-homing may look good on the surface, but should one study further we find all sorts of dodgy facts and figures being used to cover up the truth.

RSPCA run pounds put down many healthy animals under the heading of behaviour, the final transfer rate to the RSPCA itself then use’s the figures of returned animals in its re-homing rates to appear to be a great success, these methods also extend into other animal welfare groups.

This in turn takes the pressure of the real problems, which includes; puppy farms, low de-sexing rates and irresponsible ownership, all of which could be addressed through increased education and subsidised companion animal de-sexing programs.

Powers to seize and destroy animals, enter homes and vehicles, re-homing and shelters regulations, rescues call outs and powers of prosecution deserve adequate supervision and separation.

My investigations clearly show the RSPCA do not have the ability to either police or prosecute in a professional or equitable manner, so I will continue to call for a separation of these powers, and demand parliament hand them back to local police services.

Native animal rescue and purpose built soft release funding is non-existent in South Australia and funding beyond covering the costs of animal welfare policing also attracts no government support what so ever.

The powers to prosecute as they stand are lack lustre and misused by most of the current officers appointed under the Act, resulting in the closure and or prosecution of genuine animal carers with total disrespect for equity and justice.

A full parliamentary enquiry into animal welfare and the policing of current legislation is essential to ensure community expectations are met in a timely, open and transparent manner. I personally could forward on hundreds of written complaints, reports and personal experiences I have received in the past 6 months alone.

In short, I call for the abolition over 3 years of Australia’s live export trade, equitable government assistance for all rescue groups, shelters and native sanctuaries, the immediate removal of policing and prosecution powers from the RSPCA, government subsidised companion animal de-sexing services, strict licensing for companion animal breeders and new education programs to assist all of the above.

Mark Aldridge

Independent for Wakefield

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