Why animal welfare in Australia is such a mess and the need for an Independent Office of Animal Welfare

Dec 1 2012

Have you ever wondered why animal welfare in Australia is in such a mess? 

At last, someone with expert knowledge, has written  a Paper (download below)  that explains in detail all the angles in the twisted mess that is Australian Animal Welfare. The Paper explains the history, the players ( = uncoordinated government departments and commercial  industry vested interests), the structure, the processes….and why in its current form it will never work……. (was it ever intended to?)

The author recommends the creation of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, completely separate to the current structures, together with the legal processes that would be required to create this entity.

It’s a long document, so I have extracted sections to create a “summary” for you; you can download the entire document at the end of the summary.

The author is Jed Goodfellow:  PhD candidate within the Legal Governance Concentration of Research Excellence, Macquarie University Law School, and part-time policy officer for RSPCA Australia.  Jed was previously Legal Council for RSPCA South Australia.

Please note that the document attached is a draft version.

Summary (by Deathrowpets, extracted text from the Paper)

“This paper reviews the arrangements for animal welfare regulation in Australia with a view to identifying the problems associated with the current regulatory framework. 

A number of governance and procedural problems are identified.  The primary flaw suggested  concerns the subordination of the regulatory framework to governmental institutions which possess a fundamental conflict of interest.

The paper argues that this conflict of interest forms the catalyst for a chain of subsequent problems including, industry domination of the standard-setting processes, industry control over the development of animal welfare science, the disparity between animal welfare policy and law, and unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies in the use of available resources.

 It is argued that these problems lead to a system of governance and regulation that lacks legitimacy, in which structures and processes breach fundamental principles of procedural fairness and equality in democratic participation.  

In turn, these deficiencies prevent government from serving the public interest in delivering adequate animal welfare outcomes such as sustained improvements in animal welfare standards.  The paper also finds that the current framework is failing to serve the interests of industry. By insulating industry from objective scrutiny and allowing the status quo to continue despite community expectations moving forward, a growing disconnect between public expectations and industry practices emerges.

 No existing government department deals completely with the wide-ranging suite of matters which concern issues of animal welfare.

Currently, different government departments will be involved to varying degrees in specific animal welfare issues which are incidentally relevant to their core areas of responsibility.

The welfare of animals used in research for instance falls under the responsibility of the National Health and Medical Research Council (from a standard-setting perspective). The treatment of wild animals subject to culls will generally fall under the responsibility of state departments of environment, and may also be subject to Commonwealth oversight if such culls form part of a wildlife trade management plan.  State departments responsible for sport and racing will generally have involvement in welfare standards for race horses and greyhounds. The overarching and residual responsibility for the animal welfare, however (including of course farm animal welfare), belongs to SCoPI and the departments of agriculture. 

This fragmented approach to animal welfare may provide one explanation for the significant inconsistencies in the levels of protection afforded to different species of animals, or even the same species of animals but in different contexts of use.

 The current arrangements for animal welfare regulation do not represent an efficient and effective use of public funds.

The current arrangements result in unnecessary complexity and duplication resulting in an inefficient use of available resources. The current arrangements  fail to serve the public interest in delivering independent and objective animal welfare science, and substantive laws which reflect government policy and community expectations.

The multidisciplinary nature and complexities of animal welfare policy, and its wide-ranging application to a large variety of circumstances that cut across multiple departmental jurisdictions calls for the establishment of a dedicated office of animal welfare.

The proposed Office will represent a more efficient and effective use of public funds. 

The only option for addressing the fundamental conflict of interest is to remove the responsibility for animal welfare regulation from the remit of SCoPI  (=COAG Standing Council of Primary Industries) and the departments of agriculture. 

Agricultural ministers and their associated departments perform an important role in serving the agricultural sector and rural communities. Promoting productive and profitable primary industries is a fundamental component of this service.  This of course should not change.  The reality, however, is that this objective conflicts with the objective of promoting and protecting animal welfare, particularly in relation to farm animals. “

Download Paper here…   This version with highlighted text and notes by Deathrowpets

Download Paper here…   This version,  as original received

(..be patient in downloading , as may take a few minutes)

Further notes; on page 5 of the Paper, the author lists the current members of the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. This committee overseas the implementation of the Aus Animal Welfare Strategy (which seemingly doesn’t work anyway…). From their website, here are some notes on who these people are:

Download notes on AWAC membership here….

Call me cynical, but you will see that about half are vets ( commercial vested interests?  Nah…) and the other half farmers (commercial vested interests?? Nah again) . Read the notes and draw your own conclusions…….


A restaurant conversation with Pets Paradise

Following  is an e-mail sent out by Jason Gram of Pets Paradise, 14 June 2012, to happy customers:

“A restaurant conversation, Pets Paradise.

 Hi all,

If you’re having dinner in a restaurant and the topic of your pet comes up, you may wonder what to say if some lady looks down their nose at you and says, “Oooh, I would never buy a pet from a pet shop. Lots of theirs are from puppy farms and then end up in the pound.”

Have a sip of your wine, savour it and then you can tell her the truth –

  • “Actually Jane, only 15% of dogs in Australia have come from pet stores (85% come from breeders and internet). And, as pet store advice matches pets to family conditions, there’s are less likely to end up in a pound than one sourced anywhere else.”
  • “Pets Paradise in Hornsby actually volunteer for the rehoming of rescue animals from the public, vets and animal shelters.”
  • “Pets Paradise in Hornsby has a policy Elizabeth (in writing and in the window) of never buying off puppy farms. READ MORE HERE

“Where is the animal welfare discussion paper promised over one year ago?

November 2011. This matter is of importance to all Australians wanting to stop pound and shelter killing.

Summary: What happens is this: The State  Government – for political and PR reasons – announces it will “taskforce” the subject and announce a public discussion document. Nothing happens. And so the ACT Greens announce their own animal welfare Bill. The ACT Gov. is indignant that the Greens have trumped them. And so they and the opposition, (fuelled by vested interests who don’t want any change) fail to pass the Bill. The Gov. announces it will table its own public discussion paper. Eight months later : nothing has happened. Once again, a Gov and its AWAC dragging the chain. Time to rattle the cage. Actions to take below text. (NB This is happening in NSW as well…..)  READ MORE HERE

News from the US- the sun also rises in Minnesota!

Bulletin from the No Kill Advocacy Centre, May 2011

Earlier this week, we reported that the Sun rises in New York State as lawmakers introduce shelter reform legislation. Today, Minnesota Representative John Benson has introduced new rescue access and shelter reform legislation, House File 1735, called the Companion Animal Protection Act. The centerpiece of the legislation is a rescue access provision that would make killing illegal if qualified rescue groups are willing to save an animal’s life. But it does so much more.

CAPA would:

  • End “convenience” killing when there are empty cages and when animals can share kennels;
  • Require transparency in operations by requiring shelters to make their statistics public;
  • Provide lifesaving opportunities for “owner-surrendered” animals which are currently killed within minutes of arriving;
  • Ban cruel methods of killing; and,
  • So much more.

MN CAPA is based on the No Kill Advocacy Center’s model legislation of the same name.

For more information about MN CAPA, click here.

Why wont people speak up?

Last week, 2 things happened on the same day.

Firstly I got an email from a person with inside information on a situation in a certain Shelter in Australia. I was given a great deal of information, but was told that this must remain confidential and anonymous. Now, I don’t know how to help change things if people want to remain “anonymous”and not put their name to their claims.

It happens a lot and it’s very frustrating. We are sitting on this mass of information and can do nothing with it. It’s not a good feeling.

Then later that same day I was sent  a link to one of Nathan Winograd’s articles called  “Courage and cowardice in the fight for a no kill nation”. In this article, expressed better than I could, he says :

“I spend a fair part of my day on the telephone. And when I can help someone reform their local pound or when I can help a shelter manager improve their rate of lifesaving, I find it rewarding. But there is one type of telephone call (and e-mail) that fills me with dread. And that is the person who calls about inhumane treatment or other unethical behavior of a local “shelter” or animal welfare organization, but wants to remain anonymous.” Continue reading

A guide to the ideal shelter director

Article from No Kill Sheltering Oct 2006

Until April 2005, the CharlottesvilleAlbemarle SPCA, an agency which contracts for animal control in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the target of criticism for what some in the rescue community saw as unnecessary killing.

But then it all changed. In their search for a new director, agency trustees did not hire someone with years of sheltering experience. In an era which has historically been dominated by reactionary policies, “sheltering experience” often brings a mindset of “how we have always done it.” In other words, it brings an overreliance on killing.

Instead, the Charlottesville Board of Directors sought someone with passion for animals, and specific skills which could be transferred to a shelter environment. They chose a lawyer with a business background. And the results have been dramatic.

Download article here…. Guide to Ideal Director

DRP Comment: a valuable article; download it and forward to all board members you know in shelters and pounds. Relevant in light of recent matters at geelong.