Dog & Cat Management Bill

01 Apr 2004 archivespeech
A speech expressing concerns held by the Hon. Michelle Lensink regarding the Dog and Cat Management Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I do not intend to cover much of the ground that has been covered very ably by our opposition spokesperson, the Hon. Caroline Schaefer, but I do have a couple of questions of the government that I want to place on the record prior to the passage of this bill. I also acknowledge that there have been some terrible incidents which have captured the public attention, but I would like to emphasise the fact that I believe that they arise from irresponsible dog owner behaviour, rather than simply because dogs exist in our community.

I have very grave concerns that this bill will punish the vast majority of responsible dog owners and, as the Hon. Caroline Schaefer remarked to me a moment ago, it is interesting that, while the government and all parties acknowledge that most incidents of dog attacks occur in the home, this bill is precisely aimed at dogs in public. I am also concerned that dogs will have less opportunity for exercise and will become more frustrated.

The Hon. Ian Gilfillan: Do you have a dog, Michelle?

 The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: No. My parents have a dog.

The Hon. Caroline Schaefer: It can be arranged. We will find you a dog.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Well, I have a cat, so it is not terribly compatible. The cat, I might add, does observe the law. It is interesting that I am asked about dog ownership. My parent's dog—rather interestingly named Puppy because they could not think of anything else—is very spoilt. She is quite jealous. When Puppy is present with the grandchildren in our homes we are always very careful never to leave the children alone with it. You just do not know what the dog might do, and I think that is the sort of behaviour that ought to be encouraged rather than punishing every dog that is in a public area.

My two questions relate to muzzles and whether any consideration has been given to the muzzling of dogs as a trade-off for having them on a leash. Clearly, if a dog has an appropriate muzzle it is not able to bite or present that sort of dangerous behaviour to people. The trade-off in that instance is that they can exercise

 The Hon. Ian Gilfillan: To their heart's content.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes—they are exactly the words I am looking for, thank you—to their heart's content. Another issue relates to something raised with me by a constituent, namely, dogs which are on other people's private property and which exhibit menacing behaviour, such as rushing out onto the footpath growling, grizzling and those sorts of things which, generally, are quite frightening to people and also threatening to other dogs.

The Hon. Ian Gilfillan: You are talking about dogs on other people's property?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Well, dogs which are on their owner's property but which menace people as they walk past. Is that matter addressed under the issue of dogs wandering at large? Perhaps once they are on the footpath they come within the law, or is it a matter of fencing? I would appreciate comments from the government on those two issues. I concur with the comments made by the Hon. Caroline Schaefer with regard to restraining dogs in cars. This issue has also been raised with me by a constituent.

I understand that the original rationale for restraining dogs in cars related to dogs that might menace people from the back of a utility, and the like, and not being appropriately restrained in the back of a ute. That issue was outlined in the government's discussion paper, which is entitled Responsible Dog Ownership Strategy. However, the minister's explanation to the parliament on 13 October indicated that dog's inside cabins would also be included, which I find highly ludicrous and just beyond comprehension.

As a new member in this place, I wonder at the priorities of this government, such as tying up dogs, being tough on dogs, not eating dogs and the other issue, which I will throw in for the record, the great menace to our community, teenagers piercing and tattooing themselves if they have had a couple of drinks. I would like to see more relevant legislation in this place in the next few sessions. I trust that we will get on with some real priorities for the sake of South Australia.