Michelle Lensink

DOG AND CAT MANAGEMENT (MISCELLANEOUS) AMENDMENT BILL

The speech is in relation to the Dog and Cat Management (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill.

Final Stages

Consideration in committee of the House of Assembly's message.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Liberal opposition maintains the position that we support the amendments that were moved in this place by the Hon. Tammy Franks. The other amendments, we accept, are really just procedural and I think the minister did put on the record the consultation which had taken place with the working dog stakeholders. However, the amendment that the government is seeking to reinstate, we believe, is too narrow. We think it limits the options that owners and veterinarians—who we should not need to remind the house are professionals of some several years of very difficult training—to come up with the best solution that they see fit. The Australian Veterinary Association maintains the position that they support the amendments, which were moved (and supported in this council) by the Hon. Tammy Franks for the Greens, for the same reasons.

I do not think the government has made a case. I saw in the briefing that they would provide me with the literature which supports their particular position, which I think arrived in my office while I was actually down here for question time, which I think is quite unacceptable. In the interview the minister referred to on ABC radio, I note that Dr Katina D'Onise was also asked by the interviewer, Ali Clarke, 'Do you know why it's rising?' in relation to dog attacks, and she says:

It relates to the number of dogs in the community...a slightly rising number of registered dogs goes along with a rising number of dog bites.

Ali Clarke also says:

I've got a text here...suggesting that desexed dogs are usually owned by more responsible people who train and look after their dogs better.

Dr D'Onise says:

That's a very good point...that could be part of the issue...desexing dogs reduces the risk of aggression...that's been known for a number of years.

I did ask in the briefing whether the government could verify that the procedures that they preferred could be outside of reasonable doubt that those are the ones which will reduce aggression; they have failed to do so.

On my reading of the document they have provided to me while I was down in the chamber for question time, I read it as a literature review which refers to desexing per se, not specifically those procedures that they are seeking to limit it to. The other point I would like to make is that, in most instances, the desexing procedures that are undertaken are the ones that they are seeking to do anyway, but I think they have cast this too narrowly and that it will cause difficulties for dog owners and veterinarians down the track.

I might add that the government came late to the compulsory desexing table in any case. Having supported it through the select committee process, they then abandoned it. I think they realised that they were going to have compulsory desexing forced on them by this chamber. Then they sought to put that to a citizens' jury; the overwhelming response came back that the citizens' jury supported compulsory desexing. Now they are seeking, in some bizarre way, to narrow the procedures which will limit the particular options that dog and cat owners and veterinarians may undertake. We continue to oppose that position.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I would just like to get on to the record, because I would hate to be misrepresented by the government—which does happen from time to time—that members on this side of the chamber are not concerned about dog attacks: we are. My interpretation of what has happened with this piece of legislation is that there has been a particular person, whom we could describe as an expert, a public health expert, who has a particular view, who has convinced members of the Dog and Cat Management Board that this is going to be a silver bullet for behavioural issues. Behavioural issues are important and should not be diminished in any way.

I would just like to point out for members of the chamber, once again, that most of the procedures that would be undertaken in terms of mandatory desexing will be what the government wants, but we do not think it should be limited to the specific procedures that they say because there are other issues that need to be taken into consideration. Can I just point out that the select committee reported on the situation in the ACT, which had a significant reduction in dog attacks, as follows:

…the Domestic Animal Service in the ACT—

which is a municipal service of the ACT government—

has recorded a 47 per cent reduction in dog attacks since 2001 when legislation req uiring all dogs and cats to be desexed was introduced.

In their legislation, section 73—Meaning of de-sex and permit for pt 3 provides:

In this part:

de-sex , in relation to a dog or cat, includes perform a vasectomy or tubal ligation on the dog or cat.

So, it includes other procedures. There was a drop in dog attacks in that jurisdiction when they introduced mandatory desexing and not the specific procedures that the government is seeking to introduce.

I think what has happened is that the government has decided that this is a silver bullet for dog attacks and, unfortunately, they are getting caught up in that particular point of view and not listening to all of the other views. They are ignoring a whole range of other published research which demonstrates that there is a range of reasons why dogs attacks occur. This is not going to stop dog attacks in South Australia. In fact, their own person, whom I quoted previously, when interviewed on the radio, basically said that if you have more dogs, you have more dog attacks.

Amendment No. 1 disagreed to; amendments Nos 2, 3, 4 and 5 agreed to.

The following reason for disagreement was adopted:

The council prefers its position in the bill.

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