Review of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 - Government response

Page last updated: Wednesday, 2 June 2021 - 11:37am

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In May 2019, the McGowan Government commissioned the Independent Review (the Review) of the operation and effectiveness of Animal Welfare Act 2002 (the Act). The 18-month Review included extensive industry and public consultation, with the report finalised in December 2020. The independent panel made 52 recommendations. On 2 June 2021 the Government released its response to the Review recommendations.

Government response to the Animal Welfare Act Review

The Government Response to the Review recommendations and has identified five key areas of reform:

  1. Modernise the Animal Welfare Act 2002.
  2. Strengthen the authority and capability for animal welfare inspectors.
  3. Deliver more efficient and effective law enforcement.
  4. Seek independent advice and expertise.
  5. Provide open and effective communication.

To download a copy of the Animal Welfare Act Review document click here, to download a copy of the Government Response document click here.

Consultation and summary reports

As part of its review of the Act, the independent panel called for written submissions from stakeholders and the public, and hosted four public forums, to seek input on matters of importance to the operation and effectiveness of the Act. The written consultation period opened on 14 October 2019 and closed on 16 December 2019. The forums took place in Broome, Karratha, Katanning and Perth and were attended by more than 150 participants representing various stakeholder groups. The topics covered at each forum varied somewhat, according to specific regional concerns and the discussion threads that developed.

Consultation summary reports have been published for both components of the consultation. The Summary Report on the Public Consultation provides an overview of comments submitted to the Panel through the written consultation. The Summary Report on the Public Forums summarises the discussions that took place at those forums. It includes an overview of the public forum process, and the themes, concerns and amendments to the Act raised by the participants at the forums.

About the panel

The independent panel was chaired by Western Australian barrister and regulatory law specialist Linda Black, who has a professional background in animal welfare. The other members of the panel included Di Evans, Dominique Blache, David Marshall and Catherine Marriott who have a range of senior veterinary, animal welfare and industry experience.

The aim of the review was to assess the operation and effectiveness of the Act, including whether it reflects contemporary best practice and what legislative amendments might be required. The panel provided a report to Government, that detailed its findings and any recommendations for legislative amendments or the introduction of new policies or standards.

More specifically, the panel enquired into whether the Act provides adequate protection to the welfare of animals covered by the Act. The panel considered whether there is a need to broaden the Act beyond acts of actual cruelty to include the promotion of minimum standards for humane treatment, including conditions that allow animals to express their instinctive behaviours.

The review took advice and input from the community, industry, welfare advocates, scientists, veterinarians and relevant experts in determining how best to ensure that modern best practice can be achieved in animal welfare.

The panel also looked at what barriers and difficulties there are with enforcing the Act and its associated Regulations. Issues such as examining what animal welfare inspectors are able to do or not able to do and how best to tackle the obstacles which may restrict the ability to take those charged with animal cruelty offences to court. This includes looking at how well the current law is working and how to make it work better.

The panel’s review of the effectiveness of the Act is separate to the work being carried out by the department to implement the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for livestock (Standards and Guidelines). Amendments to the Act in 2018 have made the implementation of the Standards and Guidelines in Western Australia possible.

Terms of Reference

  1. Determine whether the objects of the Act reflect and promote contemporary best practice in animal welfare such as recognition of the ability of animals to express innate behaviours, and if necessary recommend appropriate legislative amendments.
  2. Identify any impediments to the effective enforcement of the Act and any related regulations, with specific attention to the powers of inspectors and the prosecution of offenders.
  3. Consider amendments to policies, standards and legislation to achieve contemporary best practice in animal welfare regulation, including a compliance regime based on standards prescribed by regulation, and if necessary recommend appropriate legislative amendments.
  4. Make recommendations on how compliance with the Act can be promoted, including consideration of the prosecutorial framework, and if necessary recommend appropriate legislative amendments.
  5. Advise the Minister on any other matters relevant to the operation and effectiveness of the Act.