Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – Radio Adelaide Interview on the New Legislation to Protect Police Animals

Kelly Vincent, Dignity for Disability (Radio Adelaide 7.34-7.39) New legislation to protect police animals

Randall: A chase down the street is no easy feat for police animals and new legislation comes into place to protect these furry creatures. This means by the end of this year it will be an offence to harass an animal on duty punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment but one MP is sure that animal welfare laws already in place are more than enough. Kelly Vincent, what protections do animals on duty already have?

Kelly Vincent: Currently under the Animal Welfare Act of 1985 and it is an offence to harm or seriously harm an animal including causing death or unconsciousness and that offence carries a $50,000 fine or a four year prison term.

Randall: So does any of this change under this new legislation?

Kelly Vincent: Not really, in fact the Law Society as well as myself would argue that this is actually creating unnecessary complexity in our laws in that it aims to protect police animals and working animals in a separate Act to the Animal Welfare Act. Our argument is not necessarily against creating a separate offence but we say, put it in the same Act, in the Animal Welfare Act so that we don’t have this complexity in two separate Acts.

Randall: Would you like to see more punishment for people who do harm these working animals?

Kelly Vincent: I’m a well known animal rights believer and activist. Dignity for Disability has a very strong record on these issues in Parliament and in the media both in supporting a ban on jumps racing, supporting a change in the definition of free range eggs and indeed stopping a pet bond apply to assistance animals so someone doesn’t have to pay extra money if they move into a house bringing an assistance animal with them. I don’t think our stance on this issue can be held up as an example of us not loving animals but I do think that before we look at creating extra offences which are basically already covered in existing law we need to actually enforce that law and questions need to be asked to as to why we aren’t just already using, or the Government isn’t already using the existing offences that are under the Animal Welfare Act and I’m all for creating extra offences if necessary but first this Government and this Parliament actually needs to get serious about enforcing our existing laws.

Randall: Are there any loopholes that could be created by further legislation?

Kelly Vincent: I don’t know about loopholes but again I labour the point that the Law Society certainly agrees with my stance that a separate Act to deal with this issue does create legal confusion and unnecessary complexity. I don’t know about loopholes but it certainly could create some confusion.

Randall: How would we see guide dogs be affected as they are the working dogs that we see most around the city?

Kelly Vincent: Guide dogs are covered by this bill so it is an extra offence to harm or kill a guide dog, however it doesn’t to the best of my understanding cover other kinds of assistance dogs and there’s hearing assistance dogs. It is a very confusing area that we’ve got ourselves into where some dogs are covered but other animals are not. Again, if we’re going to do this properly we need to do it under the Animal Welfare Act so that there’s no legal confusion and we need to cover every animal that needs covering.

Randall: Is there anything that needs tweaking in our current Animal Welfare Act?

Kelly Vincent: there are areas where the Animal Welfare Act is not perfect as I’m sure any animal lover like me is well aware but I go back to my previous point which was before we look at any changes we need to get serious about actually enforcing the laws that are in place. Too often we hear of cases where animals are mistreated and the law isn’t properly enforced so we do possibly need to look at some changes such as  a phasing out of live exports of cattle to other countries. I don’t actually eat meat at all, that’s my choice, but I do think that many people who do choose to eat meat would like to do so in a more humane way, so there are a lot of areas that need to be looked at including a ban on puppy farms, and so on, but before we look at those issues or indeed while we look at those issues we need to actually get serious about enforcing the current laws because it is no good to put up extra laws, more laws when we’re not even enforcing the ones that we currently have. There’s great hypocrisy in the Act and it’s not one that I support.

Randall: Thank you.