Cruelty Case Involving German Shepherd Highlights Flaws In Animal Welfare Laws, RSPCA Says

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An animal cruelty case that ended in the death of a dog has highlighted loopholes in Tasmania’s animal welfare laws, the RSPCA said.

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A dead German Shepherd was found hanging from a window at a Sandy Bay property this week.

Her owner had previously received a notice of a cruelty violation, but the RSPCA said existing laws prevented its inspectors from removing the dog.

RSPCA Tasmania chief executive Jan Davis said animal welfare inspectors had visited the property on several occasions but had no authority to intervene.

“We are faced with these things every day and there are no easy solutions, and there is no easy way around it,” Ms. Davis said.

A caged German Shepherd, believed to be the Sandy Bay dog ​​who tragically died earlier this week. (Facebook: Libertas)

She said the inspectors needed more powers.

Current laws came into effect in 1993 and Ms Davis said community attitudes changed during this time.

Law change in progress

Ms Davis said pushing to change the laws was “not a new conversation”.

“We worked with the Ministry of Primary Industries on what contemporary powers might look like,” she said.

In addition to the RSPCA animal welfare inspectors, there are also animal welfare inspectors employed by the state government.

Agricultural consultant Jan Davis in an office
Jan Davis of the RSPCA says there is an appetite for change. (Provided: Jan Davis)

“[Legislative change] is something that inspectors from both agencies agreed needs to be addressed. This is clearly a priority issue that we all need to address, ”Ms. Davis said.

She said inspectors would like to be able to take a more proactive approach, but currently the burden of proof is too high.

“We want inspectors to be able to use the balance of probabilities [approach]a sane, “reasonable man” approach that we see in other laws. “

Ms Davis said the difficulties for inspectors seeing a dog locked in a hot car highlighted one of the problems with the current legislation.

“Under animal welfare law animal welfare is important, but under private property and trespass [laws] we are not authorized agents, so the inspector has to make a decision on the spot as to the rules he is going to follow, “she said.

She said Tasmanian legislation lags behind the rest of the country.

“We have now, in some ways, benefited from all the work that other states have done to look at what might be best practice.”

A dog that was recently abandoned by its owner at a shelter in the United States
The RSPCA says animal protection officers feel conflicted over what type of action to take when they see an animal in distress. (Paul J Richards: AFP)

Ms Davis said the German Shepherd case highlighted a huge disconnect between the expectations of community members about what the RSPCA should do and what it could do within the law.

“People think we can go to all the gung-hos and take animals for no reason, just because they think the conditions are not right.

“We can’t do that, and the social media comments about this matter have been very distressing,” Ms. Davis said.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment said the state’s animal welfare law was “strong legislation.”

“The Tasmanian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee met recently and discussed the issue of the powers of inspectors under the Animal Welfare Act and Dog Welfare Regulations, and advice from AWAC and DPIPWE will be provided to the government, ”the spokesperson said.

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