Thousands of dogs on death row after new laws introduced

Sunday Herald Sun (Vic); Sue Hewitt; Nov 21 2010

THOUSANDS of dogs face a death sentence as a bureaucratic crackdown bans volunteers from claiming animals and placing them in foster homes.

 The Department of Primary Industries is now enforcing a rule that each carer or dog rescue group be registered as a “domestic animal business”, despite volunteers operating out of private homes.

The blacklisting means councils not using dog shelters that have 28 days to rehome dogs will have to kill healthy dogs after eight days under their rules for pounds.

Pregnant dogs, puppies, and sick animals in smaller pounds face immediate death because legally they cannot be sold.

Many animal shelters have their own foster carers to return the dogs to health to sell, but smaller pounds had relied on volunteer dog rescuers.

The volunteers fear new legislation being drawn up will shut them down, said Trisha Taylor, of the Dog Rescue Association Victoria.

“We want companion animals to have the right to live, a right to be saved,” she said.

She said the right of volunteers to rescue unwanted dogs should be guaranteed by law, not dependent on “the whim of a particular council or animal management officer”.

RSPCA chief Maria Mercurio said the situation was “appalling”.

“The rescue groups need to be drawn into the system and legitimised, not punished or forced out of the system,” she said.

Animal welfare activist Mike Bailey, who runs the Stop the Clock campaign to stop dogs being killed after 28 days, said volunteers saved about 3000 dogs a year, mostly from country council pounds.

Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said the rules for dog rescuers were not new.

“The intention was to offer support and guidance to enable pet rescue groups to continue their important work, particularly with large numbers of animals,” he said.

Tristan, a ridgeback-sighthound cross was going to be put down because there was no room at the local pound, but dog rescuer Louise Staite has fostered him until a permanent home can be found. She said her four children adored him.

The dogs featured on this page, except for Tristan, are at the Lost Dogs Home (www.dogshome.com) which has 28 days to rehome them, while those interested in Tristan can visit www.vicdogrescue.org.au

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4 Comments

Filed under Victoria

4 responses to “Thousands of dogs on death row after new laws introduced

  1. Romana

    Hi Paul and Kathrin, do we want to do something about it? Set up a petition, and forward thousands of signatures to the Agriculture Minister, because – the mere word ‘business’ scares some people so much that they’d rather stop helping animals than filling out a registration form?

    I think, first, it would be worth to find out and let everybody know what is involved in having a foster home/rescue shelter registered as a ‘domestic animal business’. For public authorities, the word ‘business’ is most often a synonym for ‘activity’. Perhaps the people who fear this registration would be surprised that it only requires filling out one sheet of paper with personal details and post it to get a number in return – an Australian Business Number. The second big thing to do is, once a year, to enter a Zero or some negative figure into the respective column of the annual tax return. And that’s it – nothing else will change.

    If such a ‘registered business’ does not intend to make profit from the start – and I am sure no foster home or no-kill shelter does – then it is likely to be considered a ‘hobby business’ by the authorities, which has no financial consequences at all, not even to Centrelink pensions and alike. Should it not be considered as a ‘hobby business’ (which would surprise me) and make regular losses (which foster carers certainly have, especially if they count in their working time with more than 10 cents per hour), then it would become a tax deductible expense for them which they could balance against their tax debt from other income – and that could significantly help to finance their good work!

    So, the requirement to get registered does not need to have any negative effects on rescue work at all and, most definitely, it does not mean that less dogs and cats can be rescued. We only need to eliminate the fear of the rescuers of being considered as ‘business people’ due to such new legal status, by making them – and the general public – aware that owning and running a registered non-profit business is certainly nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. Every pensioner can do that, without harm.

  2. Tim

    Hi Romana

    Appreciate your thoughts here, but I think you misunderstand what’s involved in being declared a “domestic animal business” by the DPI pursuant to the Domestic Animals Act.

    This has nothing to do with the ordinary definition of “business” as it applies to any normal commercial enterprise in Victoria.

    The relevant Act is the Domestic Animals Act 1994. A link to the provisions of the Act can be found here:
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/daa1994163/

    The DPI is endeavouring to declare that all rescue groups and all foster carers are “domestic animal businesses” pursuant to the definitions contained in the Act at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/daa1994163/s3.html

    The are endeavouring to do this by interpreting the Act to mean that (in their view) anyone who fosters a homeless dog or cat is effectively an “animal shelter” pursuant to the following definition from the Act:
    “animal shelter means any premises maintained for the purpose of providing shelter to, or finding new homes for, stray, abandoned or unwanted dogs or cats”

    Now I don’t know about you, but when I foster a dog or a cat that’s certainly not the “purpose” of my household. My household is maintained for the wellbeing of my family, it just so happens that I will occasionally endeavour to help a dog or cat in need by providing a temporary foster home for them. To suggest that my home is therefore an “animal shelter” which is “maintained for the “purpose of providing shelter to or finding homes for unwanted dogs and cats” is abject stupidity.

    Let’s also look at what the requirements would be for any foster carer deemed by the DPI to be an “animal shelter” under the Act.

    You can find a copy of the Code of Practice For The Management Of Dogs And Cats In Shelters And Pounds at:
    http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/DPI/nreninf.nsf/9e58661e880ba9e44a256c640023eb2e/eb6c7a2da5d96981ca256f0f000b61b4/$FILE/AG1009.pdf

    Far from being a simple administrative matter as you suggest, ALL of the requirements of the Code (in the above link) must be adhered to by anyone deemed by the DPI to be an “animal shelter”

  3. Romana

    I had a look at the Code of Practice, and I see now where you are coming from. Several of the rules there are simply impracticable in a family household, and some of them really astounded me. I didn’t even know that there is cat vaccine against herpes!? And maintaining a constant temperature between 18 and 21 degrees is certainly impossible throughout the whole year. Granting public access to your home, and rebuilding it with concrete floors and a drainage system would certainly be far over the top… So, if the law has already been passed, I see only one way out: Whoever called themselves “foster carer” in Victoria, must avoid using this term in future. What about “I am just a really nice person who helps animals found or abandoned in my neighbourhood by accepting them as our family members for as long as they are homeless”. I also saw in the Code that no animal shall be kept in a shelter for more than four weeks, so this is another rule which no “really nice person” will subscribe to. So, I suggest you change your terminology, do no longer use words such as ‘foster’ and ‘shelter’ – and the dogs and cats should be as safe in your homes as they were before.

  4. Tim

    Hi Romana
    I don’t think it’s necessarily a matter of descriptions either.
    The term “foster carer” isn’t actually defined anywhere in the Act, all that has happened is that the DPI have decided (of their own volition) to interpret the term “animal shelter” in the Act as applying to anyone who undertakes an activity such as foster care (or anyone who temporarily cares for homeless animals). So it probably doesn’t matter what you call it as the DPI are attempting to incorporate that sort of activity within the meaning of “animal shelter” under the Act.
    Hopefully the fact that this issue received quite a bit of press in the week prior to the election (both in newspapers and on radio) has alerted the new Govt that this is an issue that the public feel strongly about and their isn’t any political mileage in harassing companion animal rescue groups and foster carers. Certainly the Libs press release promising to look into the issue was welcome (not that this implies anything necessarily in terms of what they will actually do).
    With any luck the new Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh will tell Steve Moore from the DPI to pull his head in re this issue until the new Code is drafted and released for discussion some time next year. Hopefully also enough noise has been made about this to alert the people responsible for drafting the new Code that they need to be considerate of foster care arrangements as these people are cleaning up the mess caused by puppy farms which the pounds can’t cope with.

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