Even in a country as educated, affluent arid well policed as this one, cruelty arid neglect of domestic and farm animals continues to occur with distressing frequency. The ACT Greens are therefore to be commended for their continuing efforts to limit such episodes. This week, the Greens introduced a draft Bill in the Legislative Assembly intended to make the territory’s animal welfare laws the toughest in the country. The draft legislation deals mainly with companion animals. It sets out a number of measures intended to end the so -called practice of puppy farming aimed at the mistreatment or dumping of unwanted pets, while also requiring veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal cruelty. Most controversially of all, however, the draft Bill seeks to ban the display of cats and dogs in shop windows, to stop pet shop owners from keeping dogs and cats overnight in retail premises, and to restrict the selling of animals direct to children.
Companion animals bought on impulse frequently end up being dumped or abandoned, so efforts to invest such purchases with greater care and deliberation are to be welcomed. However, pet-shop owners are understandably concerned that their ability to earn a living will be compromised if they are unable to display their animals in the traditional manner. Since it is not in the interests of legitimate pet-shop owners to display their cats and dogs in anything other than in a happy and contented state, it is hard to see why they should be compelled to remove them every night. Tougher penalties on the mistreatment of domestic animals and greater restrictions on the sale of pets will tend to reduce the incidence of neglect and cruelty, but legislators need to take care to ensure that legitimate businesses are not penalised in the process.