New tough animal welfare laws could see dog owners in Australia fined for keeping their pet cooped up for longer than 24 hours.
The new laws, set to come into effect in six months, sets a maximum of 24 hours on the time a dog can be kept in a confined space.
Owners would face fines of $4,000 if their pet isn’t exercised immediately after the 24-hour period expires, according to the legislation passed by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
According to the Canberra Times, the penalty wouldn’t apply if a dog was kept in a back yard or garden where it could exercise, or if it had to be kept indoors for its welfare.
It’s not yet clear how the new laws will be policed, but they include the right for animal welfare inspectors to ask pet owners for their person details, with a refusal risking a possible fine of up to $2,400.
The laws are the first to recognise pets as "sentient beings" who can feel the world around them.
They also include tough new penalties on mistreatment, with a $4,000 fine for not providing pets with appropriate food, water, shelter or a clean and hygenic environment.
There are also additional restrictions on pet shop owners and breeders, while people who take part in violent animal activities such as dog fighting could face fines up to $48,000 and and a three-year prison sentence.
Critics have voiced concerns that the laws possibly go too far, but the ACT RSPCA welcomed the passing of the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.
CEO Michelle Robertson said: “The team at the RSPCA ACT want to see the absence of cruelty to animals.
“We need strong laws to help protect animals and to deter animal cruelty. We also need strong sentencing to be passed down for animal cruelty offences that will bring consequences for animal cruelty in line with community expectations.”
The RSPCA said it believes most Canberrans are responsible and loving pet owners so the changes will have little impact on responsible pet owners or businesses, but the new laws could have a significant impact on people who “continuously neglect or who have no regard for the welfare of animals in their care”.
Ms Robertson added: “The RSPCA ACT will continue to work with the community in the first instance to change negative behaviours, but when necessary, our Inspectorate’s ability to take punitive and corrective measures will now be strengthened by the additional offences and offence categories which have been included in the new laws.”