Why is the Animal Welfare Act being updated?

    The state government made a commitment to review the Animal Welfare Act 1985 to ensure it reflects community expectations and contemporary practices.

    When will the Bill be introduced to Parliament?

    It is anticipated that the Bill will be introduced to Parliament in the second half of 2024.

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

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

    The Act is managed 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
    • The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
    • Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA)
    • South Australian Police (SAPOL)
    • local government.

    Who should participate in this consultation?

    Everyone is welcome to provide feedback on the Bill.

    Whether you have pets at home, work with animals, or simply appreciate our unique and vibrant native species – animal welfare is an important subject to many of us.

    We understand legislation can be difficult to understand, so we have prepared a guide to explain the key changes proposed for the Act.

    You can respond to as much or as little of the survey as you like. 

    Who has had input to form the Bill?

    The first step in the review process was to ask the general public and anyone else with an interest in animals to take part in a YourSAy consultation, which aimed to understand views on the current Act and identify areas for improvement. Over 1,000 people contributed to this consultation and the feedback helped shape key areas for reform.

    In early 2024, key stakeholders, such as organisations that work with animals on a daily basis, were invited to discuss proposed changes to the Act and provide feedback on how the changes may impact them.

    How will the proposed changes affect commercial and/or recreational fishing?

    Fishing activities (recreational, traditional or commercial) will not be considered an offence if they are done in compliance with the Fisheries Management Act 2007. Aquaculture activities will not be considered an offence if they are undertaken in compliance with the Aquaculture Act 2001.

    Section 12 of the Bill provides an exemption for fishing activities. Practically, this exemption means that conventional fishing practices are not considered ill treatment.

    How will the proposed changes affect other industries that rely on animal production or harvest?

    Most industries involving animal production or harvest have codes of practice or standards that must be followed. There will be no changes to industries where their practices are in line with accepted industry standards. 

    Section 67 of the draft Bill maintains that practices undertaken in accordance with a prescribed code of practice are not considered unlawful.

    How will the proposed changes affect individuals?

    The majority of animals are well cared for by responsible people.

    The Act sets a baseline for animal welfare and the changes raise that baseline, bringing South Australia in line with other states and territories. The Bill also provides more tools to enable action when people fall below the requirements.

    The majority of South Australians already provide much higher standards of care than these baseline requirements, and therefore, the changes will have little or no impact on them at all.

    What do the changes to the seizure provisions mean?

    Authorised officers will still have the power to seize an animal or item where required. The changes relate to how they are managed after seizure. 

    An item can usually be held in storage without any problems.

    Holding an animal in a shelter environment until a court case has been completed is not generally in the animals best interests as court cases can take many years to finalise. The changes in the Bill allow decisions to be made in the interests of the animal and for the animal’s welfare to be central to decision making. 

    If an animal is seized the owner may appeal to the Minister (this is a new provision). If the Minister upholds the decision of the authorised officer, there is a secondary appeal option where the owner of the seized animal can appeal the Minister’s decision by applying to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).  

    If the owner does not lodge an appeal with the Minister, seized animals will be forfeited to Crown after 30 days. The animal may then be managed in a number of ways, but will not be returned.

    Why have the penalties increased?

    The proposed changes to penalties would see South Australia equal with the strongest in the nation. Community expectation is that animal welfare offences will be taken seriously and penalties will be appropriate. The changes in the Bill give the courts the option to apply higher penalties and shows the importance of animal welfare. Higher penalties also act as a deterrent to future offenders.

    What is the proposed Animal Welfare Fund?

    The Animal Welfare Fund will enable monies collected in relation to the Act to be directed into animal welfare related initiatives. It will include penalties paid for animal welfare offences and fees paid for licences, permits and registrations.

    The funding can be spent by the Minister on animal welfare related activities such as education programs, research, enforcement or other activites that advance the objects of the Act.

    Are the Animal Welfare Regulations being reviewed too?

    The current 2012 Regulations remain in force. New regulations will be drafted and consulted on in due course.

    What is happening with other commitments made by the government around animal welfare?

    As well as updating the Animal Welfare Act, the government made several other commitments to improve animal welfare in South Australia. The progress of these commitments is explained below.

    Animal shelters

    A key government commitment was to work respectfully with shelters to create a licensing system with appropriate conditions, so everyone who takes an animal to a shelter for rehoming and care can be confident that they will be treated well.

    This commitment will be managed in a second stage of reform and proposed to be completed in mid-2025.

    Banning puppy factories

    The government made a commitment to ban puppy factories through reforming dog breeder regulation and improving standards for commercial breeding. These amendments are being undertaken through updates to the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995.  

    In addition to this, the Animal Welfare Bill 2024 includes the ability to recognise and enforce orders made in another state or territory. If an order is imposed on a person in another state, the order can be recognised and enforced in South Australia.

    Banning bow and crossbow hunting

    The government is moving to ban the use of bows and crossbows to hunt animals in South Australia.

    The ban intends to stop the use of bows and crossbows to hunt animals. It would come into effect through an announcement made by the Governor of South Australia, in accordance with section 66 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.

    You can find more information on this ban and its implementation at: https://environment.sa.gov.au/bowhunting.

    Banning wide-mesh netting for backyard fruit trees

    The use of netting for fruit trees with mesh size over 5mm can cause entanglement of birds and bats. The Bill would enable this type of netting to be prohibited through prescribing it in regulations.

    What is the difference between the Animal Welfare Act and the Dog and Cat Management Act?

    The Animal Welfare Act relates to all animals, not just to dogs and cats, and focusses on animal welfare and the prevention of cruelty. 

    The Dog and Cat Management Act is specific to dogs and cats. It aims to promote, encourage and where necessary enforce responsible ownership to minimise public or environmental nuisance dogs and cats may cause.

    When can I have my say on draft amendments to the Dog and Cat Management Act?

    Consultation on the amendments to the Dog and Cat Management Act is open now. You can have your say by visiting https://yoursay.sa.gov.au/breeder-reforms