The Greens help push forward legislation to help NSW update its antiquated animal cruelty laws.
Abigail spoke in parliament in support of legislation that would see the government more efficiently enforce animal cruelty laws.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (17:01): On behalf of The Greens, I indicate support to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment (Prohibition of Convicted Persons) Bill 2022. I do not think I am on a particularly tight time frame here.
The Hon. Shayne Mallard: Twenty minutes.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: I will not take that long. The bill increases prohibitions on owning, breeding or working with animals for people convicted of animal cruelty offences. It requires, rather than allows, a court to make a disqualification order—disqualification from owning animals—against a person convicted of an animal cruelty offence, unless special circumstances justify not making the order. It ensures that interstate prohibition orders operate automatically in New South Wales so that people who have been banned from having an animal in another State are subject to the same restrictions here. It prohibits a person convicted of a serious interstate animal offence from owning or working with an animal in line with the existing ban for people convicted of New South Wales offences, and it prohibits a person convicted of an animal cruelty offence from breeding animals or being involved in a business relating to breeding animals. On the face of it, all of that seems eminently sensible.
As we have heard from previous speakers, we have antiquated animal welfare laws in New South Wales. We have had a series of agriculture Ministers who seem to have been unable to modernise our laws or bring them up to speed with community sentiment at the time. I thank the Hon. Emma Hurst for bringing this bill and some other very sensible bills and amendments over the past 3½ years, and I say about this one the same thing I have said about the others. If you were to go out on to the street and do some sort of spot poll of 10 people, asking them if they thought, for example, that a person who had stabbed a dog with a pitchfork six times, left that dog with the pitchfork inside her, only to return later, find her alive and bash her head in with a mallet, should be allowed to continue to be involved in at least four zoos and petting zoos, and continue to manage the acquisition and so‑called care of hundreds of animals, I can guarantee you that the 10 people you ask would say, "Of course not. How on earth could that person be allowed to do that? That is an absurd situation."
Similarly, someone could be convicted of 18 animal cruelty offences and still be allowed to run a puppy farm, having 100 dogs that they are using for a mass breeding operation. What is the point of the law? What is the point of having those convictions if they do not result in that person being prevented from conducting the same things and carrying out more animal cruelty offences? It is quite mind-blowing that our laws would allow that. Again, people from interstate, such as the person who was convicted of animal cruelty offences and banned from running a breeding business for 10 years in Victoria, can just wander across into New South Wales, start a massive new puppy farm and have so-called care over hundreds of animals. Somebody on the street would say that was crazy. Of course that is not how they expect our laws to work.
This bill is so commonsense that it is doing the work of the Government, and it really confuses me that we now have a bunch of amendments coming up, but we can talk about that during the Committee of the Whole. Even on issues like retrospectivity, we do not apply that sort of standard when it comes to child abuse. It is of real concern to me that we are squabbling over the idea that you can commit the most heinous forms of cruelty on animals and not face any consequence because of what appear to be loopholes in our legislation.
Fundamentally, you do not have a right to own an animal; it is a privilege. Those of us who have animals as pets and many people who work with animals in agriculture and all sorts of different industries may not agree on everything. Even people who talk about their greyhounds or their horses may not love them in the way that I would—I would not make them race, for instance—but I do understand that the majority of them see their role as caring for those animals, of having those animals in their care as a privilege, not a right. If you cannot be trusted to look after an animal, I do not know why on earth we would allow someone to continue doing so. We absolutely need to act to prevent that from happening. The Hon. Emma Hurst has set out really clearly in her second reading speech why the bill is needed. If we are going to treat animal cruelty seriously, as we should, there is no excuse for allowing people who have been committed of animal cruelty offences to continue to look after animals in our State. The Greens wholeheartedly support the bill.