Why is the Animal Welfare Act 1985 under review?

    The South Australian Government made a commitment to ‘update the Animal Welfare Act 1985 to ensure it reflects community expectations to protect animals.’

    The current Act first came into effect in 1985. It was then known as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. There have since been several revisions to the Act. 

    The most recent significant changes in 2008 aimed to reposition the purpose from prevention of cruelty to animals to promoting animal welfare. This was reflected in renaming the legislation the Animal Welfare Act. 

    Other amendments at this time aimed to:

    • strengthen the existing legislation
    • provide tougher penalties and better means of detecting people who harm animals. 

    Even though changes have been made to the Act since it came into effect, there may be some elements of the Act that still don’t reflect contemporary practices or community expectations. 

    This consultation process will help to understand what current expectations are about the welfare of animals and how this compares to the Act. 

    Who should participate in this consultation?

    This stage of consultation is open to everyone. You do not need to be an expert or have a strong knowledge of animal welfare issues to participate in this consultation process. 

    An overview of the Act and its parts is provided in the consultation paper. This provides context to the review and also background to the survey questions.  

    Who is responsible for operating and administering the Animal Welfare Act 1985?

    The Minister for Climate, Environment and Water is the Minister responsible for the Act. 

    The Act is administered by the Department for Environment and Water. It is enforced through investigation and compliance activities undertaken by individuals authorised by the Minister from the following organisations: 

    • Department for Environment and Water (DEW)
    • The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
    • Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) 
    • South Australian Police (SAPOL)
    • local government.

    What’s happening with other commitments made by the government around animal management?

    Puppy factories and shelters

    The South Australian Government made the following commitments relating to animal welfare:

    1. Update the Animal Welfare Act to ensure it reflects community expectations to protect animals. 
    2. Ban puppy factories. 
    3. Ensuring standards in shelters and transparency on euthanasia.

    In 2022, The Dog and Cat Management Board reviewed the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995. As part of this review the board considered legislative reform opportunities for dog and cat breeding and a licence system for shelters. A report on the review is expected to be tabled in Parliament in early 2023.

    Banning bow hunting

    A ban on the use of bows and crossbows for the purposes of hunting was announced by the South Australian Government in 2022.

    The Department for Environment and Water (DEW) has responsibility for administering hunting in South Australia in accordance with the requirements of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (NPW Act). DEW has been tasked with implementing this ban and will undertake targeted consultation to inform the process of implementing this commitment.

    This ban will only affect those operating under a hunting permit issued under the NPW Act. More information on the ban can be found at: https://environment.sa.gov.au/bowhunting.

    It is an offence to ill treat an animal under section 13 of the Animal Welfare Act. This applies to anyone who does or does not hold a permit to kill animals. Ill treatment includes causing intentional or reckless harm to an animal or causing harm through neglect or mistreatment.  See the Consultation Paper for more information on ill treatment under the Animal Welfare Act.

    What will the Animal Welfare Act consultation achieve?

    This stage of consultation will help to identify opportunities for change that may improve the Act. It is the first step in a multi-staged process to review and update the Animal Welfare Act 1985

    The next stages will depend on the outcomes of this initial consultation, resources and timeframes to implement reform opportunities, and direction from the Minister. 

    Community can stay informed on the review’s progress and outcomes by registering their email.

    Updating legislation can sometimes be complex and take time. This is because governments need to consider all the potential impacts on members of the community, stakeholders, industry and in the case of animal welfare, on the animals themselves. 

    How does my feedback on the Act inform the review process?

    This consultation stage aims to understand community perceptions of the Act. The questions have been designed to invite feedback around key issues raised in the Act. General comments on the Act, subordinate legislation or on animal welfare may be provided in the final question.  

    Survey participants can provide as much detail in the responses as they have capacity, interest or time for. 

    All responses and comments will be considered as part of the review process. Any feedback helps to identify opportunities to bring the Act in line with community expectations.   

    Responses will also help identify areas of high interest or concern by the community, which will be flagged for opportunities for legislative reform. 

    Feedback that may be out of scope for this review process, or that may have practical or operational limitations, will still be considered and kept on record for future consideration.

    Are changes being made to the Animal Welfare Act 1985 to ban jumps racing?

    The Animal Welfare (Jumps Racing) Amendment Bill 2022 passed through both houses of Parliament in 2022 and is currently waiting to be assented by the Governor. 

    Once this bill has been assented, the amendments relating to jumps racing will be integrated into the Animal Welfare Act. The amendments will come into effect 12 months after they have been assented by the Governor.

    What’s happening with the Animal Welfare Regulations?

    In 2020, before the announcement of the Act review, the Department for Environment and Water began reviewing the Animal Welfare Regulations 2012. The updated regulations currently remain in draft form and the 2012 regulations remain in force. 

    If changes to the regulations are recommended from the review process then further consultation would occur as part of the regulatory reform process.

    How do recent changes to the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry (the poultry standards) relate to the Animal Welfare Act?

    In 2022 the Independent Poultry Welfare Panel commissioned by all Agriculture Ministers completed its work on developing the new poultry standards.

    Standards are the national animal welfare requirements that can be put into effect in state and territory legislation and must be met under law for farm animal welfare purposes. Guidelines are voluntary and are recommended practices to achieve desirable animal welfare outcomes.

    DEW and PIRSA are working together to look at how South Australia will implement the poultry standards. Consideration will be given to how they are implemented by other states and territories, looking for national consistency where possible. 

    Are offences and penalties relating to dog theft part of the Animal Welfare Act?

    No. Any offences and penalties relating to the theft of an animal fall within the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935.

    How will this legislative review process impact on industry?

    This first stage of consultation focusses on understanding community expectations of the Act. 

    Should any changes to the Act be proposed as a result of this stage of engagement, DEW will undertake focussed stakeholder and industry engagement on any proposed reforms at a later time.

    It is also more likely that impacts on industry would arise through regulatory changes, rather than changes to the Act. Any proposed changes to the Act or Regulations would undergo industry and stakeholder consultation before being finalised.