• WARRAGAMBA DAM WALL RAISING – EFFECTS ON WILDLIFE BY PURPOSELY FLOODING PARTS THE NATIONAL PARK

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:13): My question is directed to theMinister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry. As the Minister responsible for animal welfare, what is his response to a Sydney Morning Herald article of 13 November that relied on an Office of Environment and Heritage report, which revealedthat the Government’s plans to raise the height of the Warragamba Dam would have adverse impacts on threatened species, such as the regent honeyeater and eastern brown tree creeper, as well as Sydney’s last emus. Given the Minister’s responsibilities underthe Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, what is his department planning to do to prevent individual animals suffering as a result of the flooding of downstream habitat?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:15): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think he is drawing a very long bow in trying to attach this question to my portfolio. The member is suggesting that flooding events somehow should be investigated and potentially prosecuted under the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals Act—POCTA Act—that is administered by my agencies, with the policy work also enforced by the police, the Animal Welfare League and the RSPCA. That is a long bow. It suggests that natural events such as flooding should be investigated by the RSPCA because it may endanger some native animals. That is what the member is saying. It is absolutely ridiculous. The member must have run out of ideas in the last week of Parliament. Surely he has questions about other areas of my portfolio. This a long bow at the very least.

    I do not imagine anyone in the agencies that enforce the POCTA Act would take seriously any suggestion that any flooding that happens in the Hawkesbury Valley should warrant an investigation under the POCTA Act. At this stage, I am happy to say that I am not aware of any work that my agency has done in relation to how this impacts on the POCTA side of my portfolio. The member referred to the Office of Environment and Heritage, which is the agency that is possibly responsible for some of the animals in the national park. But when it comes to cruelty to animals, we move to the POCTA Act. I do not think there is anything that my agency could be doing at this stage, particularly as we are only talking about environmental assessments of potential impacts of raising the dam wall. I am quite confident to suggest that, as far as I am aware, no work is being undertaken by my agencies under the POCTA Act.

    This is a very long bow. The question may have been better directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment. Possibly the Office of Environment and Heritage has looked at some of the impacts on some of the native wildlife. But the member has asked the question of me and, under the responsibility of the POCTA Act, I say that I am not aware of any work that is being done by my agencies in relation to this matter at this time.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:18): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate how his portfolio of animal protection does not include the impacts upon wild animals when a government makes a decision to cause the flooding of an area that will impact those wild animals?

    The Hon. Scott Farlow: Point of order: The supplementary question asked by the Hon. Mark Pearson did not seek an elucidation of the Minister’s answer; it is a new question.

    The Hon. Penny Sharpe: To the point of order: I listened very carefully. The Minister’s answer included discussion about whether it was forced flooding or natural flooding. I believe the Hon. Mark Pearson has asked for elucidation in relation to that particular aspect of the Minister’s answer. As such, the question is in order.

    The PRESIDENT: I will allow the supplementary question. It is in order. I remind the Minister that he can answer the question in any way he deems fit.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:19): All my answers are fit. When we talk about flooding, whether it is the result of someone’s actions—

    The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The Clerk will stop the clock. As members are well aware, rulings by past Presidents permit members to read extracts from documents. Those rulings are well regarded. It is also well known that members are not permitted to use props in the Chamber. I advise members that flashing a newspaper page in the air and pointing to something on the page is not deemed to be reading an extract from the paper but is, in my view, using a prop. Members will be called to order if they undertake such actions. The Minister has the call.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Regardless of whether an animal is impacted from flooding as a result of someone’s action or inaction, I do not see the correlation between that and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is like saying that if animals are impacted by an out-of-control fire the RSPCA, under its legislation, should investigate to hold those responsible to account. If the Hon. Mark Pearce has some legal advice that is contrary to my assessment, I would love to see it. I believe the question should have been directed to the Office of Environment and Heritage, which is better placed to look at this issue.

    Through the assessment process of this project and the environmental impact statement, I am sure that the impacts on wildlife, Aboriginal cultural heritage and the national park will be looked at. I do not believe it should be investigated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. As I said, if the member has anything that will convince me otherwise, I will be more than happy to look at it. As I stand here, I do not have any indication that his information is any different from my answer. The Hon. Mark Pearce should have directed the question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment.

  • SELECT COMMITTEE ON LANDOWNER PROTECTION FROM UNAUTHORISED FILMING OR SURVEILLANCE

    Adjournment Speech 14th November 2018

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (00:20): As a member of the Legislative Council Select Committee on Landowner Protection from Unauthorised Filming or Surveillance, I thank the secretariat staff for their excellent work in identifying the pertinent evidence that assisted the committee to develop the recommendations set out its report. I also thank my colleagues on the committee for their open-minded approach to a very complex issue concerning the balancing of landholders’ rights and the public interest in preventing animal cruelty. When I was voted on to the committee The Greens were at pains to suggest that it was not in the best interests of animals for me to participate and that I would end up being a patsy for intensive farming industries intent on increasing penalties for animal activists engaged in covert surveillance. It was suggested that to participate would be to give legitimacy to the cruel but routine practices involved in intensive agriculture industries and at the same time risk demonising animal activists as domestic terrorists.

    The Greens said they would “cut me down”. That certainly did not happen. I was confident that the evidence would demonstrate that our existing animal welfare protections are so poorly enforced that animal activists feel compelled to break the law by trespassing and engaging in covert surveillance to expose cruel and illegal practices. I have been vindicated in my belief by the published recommendations of the report. The Greens criticism of my membership of the committee conveniently ignored the fact that the inquiry was going to proceed with or without input from the Animal Justice Party. I had the overwhelming support of members from the Government, Labor, the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to be appointed to the committee. The truth is that The Greens would have happily taken the opportunity to be on the committee but it did not have the support of the other parties to do so. To save face with its supporters, it became necessary to denigrate my participation on this committee.

    As the only member in the Chamber with more than 25 years experience in animal activism, it seems obvious to me and no doubt to those members who voted for me that I would have a unique and important insight into the terms of reference and, in particular, to the motivations of animal activists who seek to obtain covert evidence of animal cruelty. Indeed, my presence on the committee ensured that relevant animal activist representatives were called to give evidence. Further, my questions helped to draw out information that led to the committee’s first three recommendations, which, if adopted by the Government, will significantly improve animal welfare outcomes. In particular, recommendation one, which states:

    That the NSW Government review the resources and powers of the RSPCA in regard to the monitoring and enforcement of animal welfare measures, and consider means by which the RSPCA and the NSW Police can work together more effectively to protect animals from mistreatment.

    Animal activists and advocates have long identified the need to improve the way in which animal protection is monitored and, in particular, improving the resources available for investigative and enforcement agencies. I have spent the past four years detailing the ongoing and systemic failures of our animal protection systems.

    Recommendation 2, that the New South Wales Government encourage animal industries to be proactive in engaging with the community and collaborate with animal industries to investigate schemes to increase transparency about food production and animal husbandry practices. I referred to the previous speeches in Hansard where I questioned whether animal industries have a licence to operate at all. Greater transparency of their operations will certainly give the public the opportunity to decide whether the industry’s treatment of farmed animals is deserving of a social licence. But most importantly, recommendation 3, that the New South Wales Government review the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 to consider whether to insert a public interest exemption for unauthorised filming or surveillance. Finally, I thank members for voting me on to the committee and by doing so acknowledging the valuable input the Animal Justice Party would bring to this vexed and contentious area of public policy.

  • EXOTIC ANIMALS AND CIRCUSES

    Second read speech – Exhibited Animals Protection Amendment (Prohibitions On Exhibition) Bill 2018.

    The “Circus Bill” would ban the use of exotic animals in circuses and retire them to sanctuaries where they can live out their days in peace.  Mark Pearson’s speech references the appalling history of animals being used in circuses.  “Tradition” is no defence for continuing the practice of forcing animals to perform for human entertainment.

    EXHIBITED ANIMALS PROTECTION AMENDMENT (PROHIBITIONS ON EXHIBITION) BILL 2018

    First Reading

    Bill introduced, and read a first time and ordered to be printed on motion by the Hon. Mark Pearson.

    Second Reading Speech

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (11:04): I move:

    That this bill be now read a second time.

    The Exhibited Animals Protection Amendment (Prohibitions on Exhibition) Bill 2018 prohibits circuses from exhibiting exotic animals. Exotic animals are defined as any animal other than a stock animal within the meaning of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, or a companion animal within the meaning of the Companion Animals Act”. This bill makes it an offence for a person to exhibit an exotic animal at a circus, and to breed, keep, train or transport an exotic animal for the purpose of exhibiting the animal at a circus, whether or not the circus is located in New South Wales. Exotic animals currently exhibited at circuses must be rehomed in an animal display establishment or wildlife sanctuary approved by the secretary within 12 months. If such a placement is not reasonably practicable, the owner must keep the exotic animal in accordance with standards currently prescribed under the principal Act.

    Established science tells us that the welfare and wellbeing of exotic animals is severely compromised by being held captive in travelling circuses. The circus business model is predicated on forcing animals to live in barren, cramped conditions, including stressful travel in trucks known as beast wagons for thousands of kilometres each year. The animals have little in the way of enrichment or stimulation while confined, nor can they engage in many of their natural behaviours. Animal Circuses have their origins in the Roman Empire. Their purpose was not just to entertain the masses but also to reinforce the myth of human superiority over mere beasts. Many thousands of exotic animals were tortured, butchered and killed during performances at the Colosseum in Rome.

    Australia’s first travelling animal circuses were established in the 1850s, but there is no fine tradition to celebrate. Caged lions and tigers, brutalised for the public’s amusement, were exhibited alongside freak shows with exhibits such as the bearded lady, conjoined twins, or the world’s smallest woman. Horrifyingly, a group of Aboriginal people from the Wulguru clan on Palm Island were taken abroad by Barnum and Bailey’s Circus to be displayed alongside other Indigenous people from around the globe. The Wulguru people were promoted as “Australian cannibals” and forced to dance, sing and throw boomerangs to the audience while performing alongside an elephant. Within a year many in the group had succumbed to illness and some died, with the body of an Aboriginal man called Tambo being embalmed and put on permanent display. His remains were finally returned to his country after many approaches by his people.

    There is not a shred of credibility to the often stated argument that circuses stimulate people’s interest in conserving exotic animals or respect foranimals’ capability and skill. How can watching a lion balance on a small table possibly have any relevance to understanding the place of the lion on the African savannah? In 2018 there are so many more authoritative ways that people can learn about animals. Animal circuses have never been about education as they now proclaim; rather, they are about human voyeurism, watching animals humiliated and degraded by the manner in which they are forced to perform and be displayed. They become parodies of themselves. Noone with a modicum of empathy could possibly enjoy watching a subjugated animal being forced to perform tricks against their own natural instincts.

    Circuses may have moved on from forcing lions and tigers to jump through burning hoops or—the ultimate in voyeurism—the staged death by electrocution of Topsy the elephant at a Coney Island amusement park in 1903, but the reality is still animal suffering and misery. As a society we have become more concerned about animal welfare. In recognition of this change, Australian circus culture underwent a revolution in the late 1970s with the emergence of animal-free alternatives such as Circus Oz, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus and the internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. Fast‑forward to the twenty‑first century and in New South Wales only Lennon Bros Circus, Stardust Circus and Circus Royale continue to use exotic animals such as lions, monkeys and camels. They are left to tour on the fringes of the entertainment circuit and on the outskirts of country towns. Often they are met with animal rights protesters objecting to the circus’s presence in their town.

    Acknowledging the growing public disquiet, more than 40 councils in Australia banned exotic animal circuses from performing on council‑owned and controlled land. In New South Wales, such councils included Parramatta, Lismore, Wingecarribee, Newcastle, Blue Mountains, Warringah, Woollahra, Hornsby, Pittwater, Manly, Randwick, Ku-ring-gai, Lake Macquarie, Liverpool and Camden councils. A number of other New South Wales councils are currently being petitioned to ban animal circuses on council land. In 1992, the Australian Capital Territory Government passed legislation prohibiting bears, elephants, giraffes, primates or felines—other than domestic cats—from being exhibited in circuses.

    Animals have not been the only victims of circuses. Between 1863 and 2001, there were 131 incidents in Australia in which members of the public or circus workers were harmed. The individuals most likely to suffer injuries or death were animal handlers during performances and training and circus hands feeding animals or cleaning cages. Many of the accidents involving patrons happened because people stood too close to the cages in which animals were housed. Members of the public were mauled by lions, trampled by elephants and lacerated by monkeys. The animals most prone to instigating attacks were lions, followed by tigers and elephants. Elephants killed more often than any other circus animal.

    Some circuses were so notorious for the injuries caused that it became a matter of some concern to public safety, but it was not until 1943 that the New South Wales Government finally intervened by cancelling the licence of a particularly negligent circus. Injuries to the public and circus workers continued right up until circuses began closing down due to lack of financial viability. By the early 2000s, only Stardust, Ashton and Lennon Bros circuses exhibited dangerous exotic animals such as lions, tigers and elephants. In 2001 a lion tamer was attacked by three lions at a Lennon Bros Circus performance in Penrith. In 2004 a toddler at Ashton Circus tragically lost his arms after he stuck them through the bars of a cage containing two tigons.

    The most recent case stems from a time when I was with Animal Liberation NSW. Until 1996, Stardust Circus had two performing elephants called Arna and Bambi. They had spent their entire lives in captivity, much of it together. Arna witnessed Bambi’s death from anaesthesia complications after treatment for an injured foot. Bambi fell and suffocated to death as a consequence of the treating veterinarian and staff failing to place her in a supportive sling for the surgery.

    Elephants are highly social animals and in recognition of that, the circus animal welfare standards require that elephants should not be solitary unless there are compelling reasons. In 2000 Animal Liberation NSW campaigned to have Arna transferred to the Western Plains Zoo given that she had been a solitary elephant for six years and this was causing her significant distress. Imagine a life alone and bound by foot shackles except when performing. Animal Liberation wrote to the then Director General of the Department of Agriculture, stating that if the annual permit was to be issued for Stardust Circus to keep Arna—therefore meaning she would be kept as a solitary elephant—then it would challenge that decision in the New South Wales Supreme Court. This was confirmed and Animal Liberation took Stardust Circus to the Supreme Court, arguing that Arna suffered psychologically as a consequence of her imposed solitude. I sought to have Arna—then in her mid-40s—paired with Gigi, a retired elephant from Ashton Circus. Animal Liberation lost the case but in 2001 Stardust Circus arranged for Gigi to join it.

    But the psychological damage had been done. In 2008, for reasons apparently unknown, Arna struck out against her handler. His injuries included a broken back and a ruptured aorta and were found to be the result of a “severe blunt trauma”, with the cause of death being a direct result of Arna crushing his upper back with her foot as he lay on the ground. However, I was informed by a trapeze artist at the circus that Arna’s and Gigi’s handler had beaten Gigi with a piece of 4 by 2 timber before approaching Arna.

    As I stated at the time, it has been proven that elephants who kill once will frequently kill again. Ashton Circus elephant Abu killed three workers: in 1974, 1983 and again in 1987. His partner at the time had been Gigi, who was later bought by Stardust Circus as the new companion for Arna. In response to public concern and a directive from the Department of Primary Industries, Stardust retired 53‑year‑old Arna and her companion elephant Gigi, 50, to the Western Plains Zoo, where they lived out their years free of shackles, long hours in the back of beast wagons, and the glare and noise of the circus ring. This tragic episode ended the sorry history of performing elephants in circuses.

    This brings me to the ongoing suffering of the remaining exotic animals in travelling circuses in New South Wales. Lions, camels and rhesus macaque monkeys are still exhibited and forced to perform for human entertainment. Animal circus owners tell us that because their lions have been bred for multiple generations in captivity and their macaques have been bred or sourced from zoos, and because the animals are shown affection as if they were companion animals and are extensively trained, they do not suffer from stress or boredom.

    In 2009, a University of Bristol study found that circus animals spend most of their days confined, with between 1 per cent and 9 per cent of each day taken up with performing or training and the remaining time spent in so‑called exercise pens. In other words, for at least 90 per cent of each day, the animals are in small, barren, temporary pens that are set up on the featureless, dusty or muddy back paddocks of New South Wales. Monkeys fare even worse, stuck in sterile cages that would be an animal welfare scandal if used in zoos.

    Exercise pens are significantly smaller than minimum zoo requirements for outdoor enclosures. Given that there is no difference between the needs of a lion in a zoo and the needs of a circus lion, what is the explanation or justification for that? The reality is that a profitable travelling circus could not have pens the size of zoo enclosures. The circus animal standards therefore allow for this anomaly based on a commercial imperative. The science, however, is very clear that wild animals such as lions cannot flourish in domesticated settings regardless of how long they have been bred in captivity. According to Price in 1999, the conditions of captivity:

    … constrain an animal’s behaviours and restricts appropriate, or allows inappropriate, social interactions, both intra- and inter‑specifically …

    According to Mason et al in 2001:

    Wild animals that have been bred for tens of generations in captivity still show extremely high motivation to perform certain activities seen in their wild counterparts … Be under no illusion that exotic circus animals are anything other than wild animals forced to adapt to and submit themselves to humans. They may have been hand reared, which makes them less fearful towards humans, and they may be described by their handlers as “tamed”, but they can never be considered domesticated. Indeed, in order to tame them, infant animals in circuses are regularly separated from their mother and hand reared. Studies by Dettling in 2002, McEwen in 2007 and Reimers et al in 2007 have shown that this increases stress‑related behaviour and can cause an elevated and prolonged stress response. These increased stress sensitivity effects can last into adulthood.

    Circus owners may speak of generationally breeding lions into docility but no studies have been undertaken to establish that selective reproduction has taken place. Genetically speaking, exotic animals in circuses are identical to their wild counterparts. They express similarly high motivation to perform their species‑specific behaviours and their instincts are unaffected. As a result, allegedly tamed exotic animals in captivity are often unpredictable and under stressful circumstances are likely to become aggressive. The University of Bristol study that I referenced earlier examined behaviour, health, living and travelling conditions and compared the conditions of non-domesticated animals in circuses with their counterparts kept in zoos. The study found:

    Circus animals spent a great amount of time performing stereotypies, such as head-waving, pacing and repetitive abnormal behaviours, especially when shackled or confined in beast wagons.

    Stereotypies are caused by a captive animal’s repeated attempts to adapt to its environment or by a dysfunction of the central nervous system. Locomotory stereotypies include pacing and similar behaviours. Oral stereotypies include repetitive movements with the tongue or repeatedly biting an object. An animal may also perform repetitive movements of the whole body without moving from one place to another, such as swaying. The category would include, for example, a stereotypy sometimes shown by primates that consists of the animal moving its body backwards and forwards while seated. Other stereotypies include excessive grooming, leading sometimes to hair loss and dermatitis.

    The motivation for locomotory stereotypies of carnivores is not known with certainty and is likely to result from the combination of several factors. Some studies suggest that lack of space is important, while others point to the inability to perform the normal behaviour of the species as the main cause. In carnivores, pacing is more common in those species that usually travel long distances in the wild. Regardless of how many generations have been born into captivity, all confined exotic animals are at risk of developing stereotypies due to confinement, boredom and the stress caused by the inability to perform normal behaviours. Stereotypic behaviour is particularly associated with performances in circus elephants and, in short, they are driven mad.

    The presence of stereotypies is indicative of poor welfare in circus animals. Inadequate diet and housing conditions, and the effects of repeated performances, can also lead to significant health problems. Circus animals travel frequently and the associated forced movement, human handling, noise, wagon movement and confinement are important stressors. Available evidence suggests that performing near spectators may cause severe stress to wild animals. This can be exacerbated by restricted movement options, harsh lighting, exposure to loud or aversive sounds, strange odours and extreme temperatures. For example, stereotypies increase when the music starts just before a performance. I have witnessed that myself.

    The type of training that is used affects the welfare of the animals. While we cannot be sure about the exact nature of training methods, any training procedures that include physical punishment will be stressful for and impose fear on the animals undergoing them. In the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, has previously exposed the use of bullhooks on elephants in order to obtain their compliance. Although there is no conclusive evidence as to whether animals habituate to travel, confinement in beast wagons for long periods is a definite welfare concern.

    Circuses have a limited ability to make improvements such as providing increased space, environmental enrichment and appropriate social housing that zoos may be able to provide. Given the financial and physical limitations of circuses, social animals are often housed singly, or in groups smaller than the average in the wild, or in unnatural groupings. That prevents establishment of normal social dynamics and has significant consequences for behaviour and welfare. Consequently, the University of Bristol study found that the only non‑domesticated animals suitable for circus life would have low space requirements, simple social structures, low cognitive function, non-specialist ecological requirements and an ability to be transported without adverse welfare effects. None of the commonest species exhibited by circuses, such as elephants and large felids, meet those criteria. They concluded that the species of non-domesticated animals commonly kept in circuses appear the least suited to a circus life.

    Animal circuses are closing all around the world. The most famous in the United States, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey, made the decision to close earlier this year after almost 150  years in the business. They attributed the closure to changing community tastes in entertainment, and the community’s growing concerns regarding animal welfare. Forty-five countries have already banned or are transitioning to ban animal circuses, citing animal welfare concerns as the main reason. May New South Wales join Sweden, Costa Rica, India, Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Belgium and other countries in moving to ban animals in circuses.

    The time is up for exotic animal circuses in this State. The circus families themselves know that they are the last generation to crack the whip against the majestic lion and the magnificent tiger. The shackles of countless generations of tortured elephants will never again be used to subjugate these magnificent gentle and intelligent giants. I respectively ask my fellow members to support this bill and give these animals the compassionate response they deserve. May their final years be spent in a sanctuary rather than in the confines of a beast wagon. I commend the bill to the House.

    Debate adjourned.

  • Naree Pon

    COMPANION ANIMALS DESERVE CONSIDERATION IN RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS

    RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AMENDMENT (REVIEW) BILL 2018

    Mark Pearson moved an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018. The amendment would ensure that companion animals would be given consideration in residential tenancies for renters.  The amendment was supported by the Greens but not by the Government or Opposition.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): There being no objection, the bill will be taken as a whole. I have three sets of amendments: the Animal Justice Party amendment on sheet C2018-119A, the Opposition set of amendments on sheet C2018-123 and The Greens amendments on sheet C2018-122.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (11:50): I move the Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet 2018-119A:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises. This amendment is a double negative and relates to companion animals:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises.

    The 2016 Census figures show that more than 30 per cent of households in Australia rely on rental accommodation for their housing needs. Combine that figure with the fact that 62 per cent of households have companion animals and we have a significant social problem with the lack of legal protections for tenants with companion animals. This problem is escalating as housing affordability causes many people to remain tenants, often for life. In Europe, where renting is the norm, there is legal recognition that tenants should not be unfairly restricted from experiences such as living with pets.

    A landlord may own a property to derive income and capital gains and it is obviously not unreasonable for them to want to protect that asset. As a society we recognise the benefit that private landlords bring to the housing sector for people who cannot afford to buy their own homes or who are not eligible for social housing. However, we must also acknowledge that the landlord’s asset is also the tenant’s home. I believe that it is entirely reasonable for tenants to be able to enjoy the same benefits of living with companion animals as do home owners. It also helps to address a terrible tragedy, that is, the increasing number of tenants who are forced to surrender their animals to pounds and shelters.

    RSPCA statistics show that 15 per cent of the dogs and cats that are surrendered are because people are moving house and cannot not find accommodation that allows companion animals. As a society we intervene in the operations of many commercial enterprises on the understanding that it is for the public good. We legislate to ensure that retailers must sell food that is not adulterated, that a motel owner cannot refuse to book a room for a gay couple, and that property developers must comply with building standards to ensure public safety. We do this because we believe that public health, welfare and fairness is important and that the “market” is unlikely to provide those protections if left to its own devices.

    Landlords are currently free to refuse tenants and the consequences are such that most landlords choose the easy option of not allowing any pets, without any consideration of the social, physical and psychological benefits that companion animals have in the lives of humans. We live in a society where single and older person households are on the rise. These two groups are at risk of social isolation. For older persons the isolation may be due to physical disabilities or illness. Both groups may struggle with the lack of social interaction leading to anxiety and depression. Psychiatrists at the University of Rochester Medical Center undertook research which found that those living with pets were 36 per cent less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. We know that human beings are social animals and that loneliness is a killer. Older adults who report feelings of loneliness are at an increased risk of many serious physical and mental health conditions, including death.

    There have been many research studies undertaken that show a raft of health benefits from living with companion animals. Human-animal relationship lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and people recovering from heart attacks recover more quickly and survive longer when there is a pet in the home. For people living alone, a companion animal may be the only affectionate touch they experience through their day. Petting an animal is known to release oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress as well as boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which promote alertness and a sense of wellbeing. According to beyondblue, it is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and that in any one year approximately one million Australian adults will experience depression and more than two million will have anxiety.

    According to depression research, being responsible for the care of an animal promotes mental health. Self-esteem is improved when people realise they are capable of caring for another sentient being. For people debilitated by depression, living with a companion animal brings a structure to the day and may be the only reason that they are able to get out of bed. Feeding, caring and exercising a beloved animal provides positive feedback and helps with healing from depression. I note that the Victorian Government has recently amended its residential tenancy legislation to allow pets in rental accommodation and that the Queensland Government has a similar provision before its Parliament. If our sister States are able to recognise the case in favour of companion animals, then surely we can join them in that compassionate approach. Allowing tenants to have companion animals will not only significantly improve the wellbeing of people but also quite simply save lives, both human and animal. I commend the amendment.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK (11:56): The Animal Justice Party amendment is not supported by the Government. Companion animals are not defined under the Companion Animals Act 1998 as a dog or cat. Properties vary greatly and different types of pets may not be suitable for some properties. The landlord and tenant are best placed to negotiate on whether a particular pet would be appropriate for a property. The Residential Tenancies Act leaves the issue of whether a tenant can keep a pet—but not an assistance animal—to be negotiated between a landlord and tenant, and the Government considers that that is appropriate.

    Mr JUSTIN FIELD (11:57): The Greens support the amendment moved by the Hon. Mark Pearson on behalf of the Animal Justice Party. The Greens had a similar amendment to ensure that those living with companion animals are not unfairly impacted by these changes and that the Residential Tenancy Act supports them to continue to live with their pets. There are more people living in rental properties than ever before. Many of them have pets and these pets are an important part of their family. Certainly I have had that experience living in rental accommodation. I have been fortunate to find rental accommodation where it has been possible for my family to have our pets. I know how important our pets are to my young son. It is important that we keep families together, including the non-human parts of our families. The Greens support the amendments moved by the Animal Justice Party.

    The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE (11:58): The Opposition appreciates the intent of the amendment moved by the Animal Justice Party. We are concerned about the need to ensure that there are not unintended consequences. The best way of doing that is to have consulted fully with all stakeholders involved to ensure that the outcome is both fair and balanced and that there are no negative impacts that we are aware of. While we appreciate the intent, for the reasons I have outlined at this stage the Opposition does not support the amendment.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): The Hon. Mark Pearson has moved Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet C2018-119A. The question is that the amendment be agreed to.

    Amendment negatived.

  • Vivisection

    RIGHT TO RELEASE BILL 2018. SECOND READING DEBATE.

    A small victory for the Animal Justice Party.  Although the NSW Government will not support the AJP’s Right to Release Bill, it will implement sections of it by way of regulation.

    The Hon. Niall Blair (Minister for Primary Industries NSW) second read speech to the Bill:

     

    The Hon. Mick Veitch (NSW Opposition) gives support for the Bill:

     

    ANIMAL RESEARCH AMENDMENT (REDUCTION IN DEATHS OF DOGS AND CATS USED FOR RESEARCH) BILL 2018

    Second Reading Debate

    Debate resumed from 21 June 2018.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (12:41): On behalf of the Government, I make a contribution to debate on the Animal Research Amendment (Reduction in Deaths of Dogs and Cats Used for Research) Bill 2018. I begin by noting the overview of the bill. The object of the bill is to amend the Animal Research Act 1985 to require a person, as a condition of the person’s accreditation as a research establishment or the person’s animal research authority, to take all reasonable steps to home a dog or a cat that is no longer required by the person for animal research purposes unless a vet has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be homed. Such reasonable steps include socialising or training the dog or cat to ensure that the dog or cat is suitable for homing, causing the dog or cat to be given to a person or animal-homing organisation, or any other action taken in accordance with the code of practice under that Act.

    The bill provides that a dog or cat is to taken to be no longer required by a person for animal research purposes if the dog or cat has been kept by the person for more than six months. Failure to comply with the proposed requirement is grounds for a complaint under part 4 of the Animal Research Act 1985 and may result in the cancellation or suspension of the person’s accreditation or authority. At the outset, I indicate that the New South Wales Government is committed to improving animal welfare and supports in principle the concept that research facilities should attempt to rehome animals and, in the first instance, better report on animals used for research purposes.

    I have stood in this place many times and promoted the good work that our agencies and industries do to review, evaluate and improve animal welfare outcomes. I am equally happy to stand here and talk about the robust framework we have in place for animals, in particular dogs and cats, involved in research. Those in the House will also know that I am not afraid to review current legislation, to consider the views on all sides of Government and to take a deep dive into ensuring we have not left any aspects unturned. That is what I have done with this bill brought forward by the Hon. Mark Pearson. I acknowledge the work of the Hon. Mark Pearson and his team in this area. The Hon. Mark Pearson has identified a gap in our animal research reporting and I have taken on board what he and his team have suggested. I have listened to his arguments and today, while I cannot support the bill in its current form, I will be acting on some of the aspects within it—which I will talk to shortly.

    In New South Wales the use of animals for research is regulated by the Animal Research Act 1985, which sets out stringent requirements designed to protect the welfare of the animals used. All research institutions must also comply with the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes. Research institutions must be accredited under the Act and research must be carried out under the approval and monitoring of an establishment’s animal ethics committee. The required membership of the animal ethics committees is set out in the code and must include a veterinarian, a researcher, an animal welfare representative and an independent representative. Each application to the animal ethics committee must include detailed information, including the justification for the use of animals as well as the impacts of all parts of the research project on the animals and how those impacts will be minimised.

    The source of animals must also be assessed. Accredited research institutions under the Act are audited for compliance with the legislation by government veterinary inspectors from the NSW Department of Primary Industries and assessed by the Animal Research Review Panel [ARRP]. The panel is a 12-member, ministerially appointed body under the Act, and includes scientific and animal welfare representatives. Where institutions or individuals are found to be in contravention of these requirements, penalties of up to $17,600 and 12 months imprisonment can apply. Domestic dogs and cats are used in a wide range of research projects. In 2016, 1,230 cats and 4,275 dogs were used for research, and the vast majority of those projects involved only observations or minor interference.

    Many of these dogs and cats are not housed in laboratories but live at home with loving owners. Some examples of these research projects include palatability trials to assess dog and cat food; production of tick antiserum for the treatment of dogs and cats affected by tick intoxication; cats housed long term as blood donors; dogs and cats used in clinical trials to develop new treatments for dogs and cats; observational behavioural studies of privately owned dogs and cats; and educational use for teaching students how to care for and handle dogs and cats, often with privately owned dogs and cats. Again, it is important to note that the majority of animal research involving dogs and cats in New South Wales is for projects that focus on observations or for minor interference, with many of the animals living at home with loving owners.

    I will now turn to the details of the bill. The bill seeks to amend the Animal Research Act 1985 to require animal research institutions and individuals to take all reasonable steps to home a dog or a cat that is no longer needed for research purposes, unless a vet has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be rehomed. The bill further proposes that dogs and cats should be kept for research purposes for only six months or 12 months with the approval of the Animal Research Review Panel, and that the panel should be responsible for coordinating rehoming activities via a publicly accessible database. Finally, the bill proposes that a dog or a cat used for research purposes should not be euthanased without the approval of the responsible animal ethics committee.

    As I have alluded to previously, the Government supports the intent of the bill, which is to improve rehoming rates of domestic dogs and cats used for research. However, the bill contains provisions that are not clearly defined and would result in perverse outcomes; it shifts the compliance burden from industry to government; it is inconsistent with the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes; and it is not supported by the Animal Research Review Panel. The bill does not define “reasonable steps”, nor does it recognise that not all dogs and cats used for research will be suitable for rehoming or that rehoming is not always the best welfare outcome for an animal. The bill also does not recognise that not all vets will have the necessary expertise in animal behaviour to decide whether a dog or cat should be rehomed.

    Further, a limit on the time that cats and dogs can be used for research projects would lead to perverse outcomes because many more cats and dogs would need to be used. The bill suggests that cats and dogs should be kept for research purposes for only six months or 12 months with the ARRP’s approval. It must be noted that some research projects can continue for many years with little to no negative impact on the animal. In many cases, the animals remain in the home and may receive low-level treatments of new tick and flea products, for example. Limiting the time that an animal may be kept for research purposes would lead to many more dogs and cats being used in research trials.

    The bill proposes that the panel should coordinate rehoming activities. However, this would shift the compliance burden from industry to government. There is an existing requirement under the Australian code that the fate of animals used for research must be approved by the animal ethics committee as part of the research project approval. The bill proposes that a subcommittee could also perform this role. However, this is not permitted under the Australian code. Finally, the bill is not supported by the Animal Research Review Panel. For those reasons, the Government does not support the bill in its current form.

    The Government is dedicated to safeguarding animals used in research and acknowledges that there is a need for better information to guide research institutions and individuals and help them to understand what “all reasonable steps” are. Rehoming cats and dogs used for research is difficult, and unfortunately not all animals are able to be rehomed. The Animal Research Review Panel understands this issue well and has established a subcommittee to develop comprehensive guidelines for research institutions to help improve rehoming rates, because it is a complex area. These guidelines are expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2019.

    I make it known that if the New South Wales Liberals and The Nationals return to government after March next year and if I am the Minister responsible, it is my intention to review the guidelines very carefully and, in consultation with ARRP, research institutions, rehoming bodies and other key stakeholders, develop a mandatory code of practice by way of regulation change under the Animal Research Act 1985. I have been advised that we are unable to make a regulation change without an existing code of practice. As the industry experts, the ARRP will develop the guidelines in the first instance, which will then be used to develop a code of practice from that point forward.

    This area requires change and we need a mandatory code of practice in this space. I make that clear. If I am no longer the Minister after the March election when the deadline is up, I will chase up the issue with my ministerial colleague. I do not expect it to occur, but if I am sitting on the other side of the Chamber I will advocate from that position. This area requires change. The industry must develop the guidelines from which we draft the code of practice and then put in place regulations to ensure the code is mandatory. In the interim, we agree that better information and data need to be collected about what happens to cats and dogs used in research when a project is completed.

    I pay credit to the Hon. Mark Pearson. I listened to his second reading speech and his comments about the lack of data from the institutions around rehoming. I left the debate, went to my office and asked my agency to give me the numbers. But I could not get them. I am not saying that there is underperformance in this area; we simply do not know how many attempts have been made and, as Minister, that is not acceptable to me. I do not accept we do not gather that information or report on it. It is in the interests of the industry to report on the information and be able to say that it is making progress in this area. But at present there is an information gap.

    We will work with the Animal Research Review Panel to ensure that rehoming is adequately considered and reported by institutions that use domestic cats and dogs for research. I encourage those interested in this issue to visit the Animal Ethics InfoLink, which houses all the relevant information in this space. Included on the site is a list of reporting forms that research institutions must use. “Form L – Animal Use Statistics” will be updated this year to include the need for research institutions to report on what happens to dogs and cats after they have been used for research. Reporting cycles follow the calendar year, so this additional information will be collected as of January 2019. I could not find the information easily but that will change as a result of this bill. The information will be provided over the next reporting year, starting in January 2019. That is a good outcome. It does not require legislative change, but it should occur.

    This bill will not achieve its intended purpose of reducing the number of deaths of dogs and cats used in animal research, and the Government therefore opposes it. I raised with the member when we discussed the bill that its title—the Animal Research Amendment (Reduction in Deaths of Dogs and Cats Used for Research) Bill 2018—is misleading. It insinuates that a large number of animals are dying during research, and I do not think that was the member’s intention. The statistics report a figure for “death as an end point” for cats—which means the approval for an animal to die during testing. There has not been such an approval since 2010. From speaking to the Hon. Mark Pearson—I will not verbal him; he will have an opportunity to address this issue when he replies to the debate—I gather that the bill does not seek to address the fact that dogs and cats are dying during research. As I said, the vast majority of research is observation and involves minor interference. The issue is what happens to the animals when they are no longer used for research and testing. The member will have an opportunity to address that issue in reply. Perhaps the bill should have been titled “Animals Used for Research Rehoming Bill”. That is my observation in relation to that matter.

    I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for bringing this issue to our attention, and for helping to identify opportunities for the Government to further strengthen the existing regulatory framework for research animals. It is a noble attempt. I understand that drafting legislation can be challenging and there may be line-ball discussions with Parliamentary Counsel about the wording and including time lines. I think the provision about the length of time that animals may be used for research should probably have been worded better. However, the bill will result in better animal welfare outcomes. I am happy to have worked with the Hon. Mark Pearson on this issue, and I appreciate the time that he and his staff dedicated to sitting down and discussing the issues with us.

    I am proud that we can make the reporting changes immediately. I reiterate that I have put the industry on notice about the code of practice. We expect it to develop the guidelines quickly and then we will move to ensure that there is a code of practice in regulation going forward. I again congratulate the Hon. Mark Pearson on the principle of what he is attempting to do in this bill. However, the bill has some unintended consequences and we cannot support it in its current form. I hope that we have been able to go some way towards addressing the concerns that the member has identified. For the reasons I have outlined, the Government opposes the bill.

    The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Mr David Shoebridge): I shall now leave the chair. The House will resume at 2.30 p.m.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! According to sessional order, proceedings are now interrupted for questions.

     

    ANIMAL RESEARCH AMENDMENT (REDUCTION IN DEATHS OF DOGS AND CATS USED FOR RESEARCH) BILL 2018

    Second Reading Debate

    Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH (15:32): I lead for the Opposition in debate on the Animal Research Amendment (Reduction in Deaths of Dogs and Cats Used for Research) Bill 2018. The object of the bill states:

    … this Bill is to amend the Animal Research Act 1985 to require a person as a condition of the person’s accreditation as a research establishment or the person’s animal research authority, to take all reasonable steps to home a dog or cat that is no longer required by the person for animal research purposes unless a vet has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be homed. Such reasonable steps include:

    (a)socialising or training the dog or cat to ensure that the dog or cat is suitable for homing, or

    (b)causing the dog or cat to be given to a person or an animal homing organisation, or

    (c)any other action taken in accordance with the Code of Practice under that Act.

    The bill provides that a dog or cat is taken to be no longer required by a person for animal research purposes if the dog or cat has been kept by the person for more than six months. Failure to comply with the proposed requirement is grounds for a complaint under part 4 of theAnimal Research Act 1985 and may result in the cancellation or suspension of the person’s accreditation or authority.

    I put on record my appreciation of the Hon. Mark Pearson and his office for providing me with a greater understanding of the bill. Once the Hon. Mark Pearson had made his second reading contribution, I made a request to meet with him. I met with the Hon. Mark Pearson and his staff on two occasions and was provided with a briefing note. Many people had not given consideration to the issues that were raised by the member. He has shone light on an area that for a long time had not been drawn to our attention, if at all. I concur with the comments Minister Blair made in his second reading contribution prior to the lunch break. He said that the Hon. Mark Pearson has tested not only the Minister’s departments but also all members in this House about what this legislation means. It is difficult for Opposition and crossbench members to get legislation passed in this Chamber. But the Minister said in his second reading contribution that, even though the Government will not support the legislation, there will be action. The Hon. Mark Pearson should take that as a victory.

    The Hon. Rick Colless: It’s a big achievement.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH: I acknowledge the interjection from the Hon. Rick Colless. Not only did the Minister say that he had already put action in place, particularly concerning data, which was clearly lacking, but also he gave a commitment to seeing that the intent of the legislation—even though I suspect it will not be passed in the Chamber—will be carried through. The Hon. Mark Pearson should be heartened by the Minister’s comments. Even if he does not receive the Government’s vote, the Minister has taken note of the issues identified and is putting in place some measures to address them.

    A number of issues were raised with me when I started consulting with groups about the legislation. In my second meeting with the Hon. Mark Pearson I raised some of those concerns, and I hope that he will address them in his speech in reply. I concur with the Minister’s comments about the title of the bill. We do not always have a choice on these matters and Parliamentary Counsel will often dictate the short title of the bill. In this case the short title of the bill does not reflect what the Hon. Mark Pearson is trying to achieve. Currently the legislation covers dogs and cats and I wonder whether there are plans to expand it in the future. Dogs and cats are not the only animals used for animal research. I would like the Hon. Mark Pearson to clarify what his intentions are in the future. In my view, it may be that the bill inadvertently captures council-operated pounds. As such, a specific provision excluding pounds should be included in the bill. I would like the Hon. Mark Pearson to give his view on how the legislation applies to council pounds when he replies to the debate.

    Members may wonder what I mean by that. Concerns have been raised with me that dogs and cats used in research have been possibly rehomed in a facility that is not a suitable placement for them and, therefore, they finish up in the council pound. Those concerns need a response from the proponent of the bill. It has also been suggested to me that the word “suitable” should be inserted before the words “person or group”. The dogs or cats should be rehomed with a suitable individual. The RSPCA is of the view that the criteria for suitability could be regulated easily. For instance, permanent residency was suggested so that animals coming out of a research environment can enter stable homes. It also has the capacity to avoid overwhelmed caregivers or potential hoarders. We often know of individuals in regional communities, in particular, who have lots of cats or dogs at their residence. They are well-intentioned individuals who provide accommodation for lots of animals but one wonders whether they have the capacity to meet the animals’ needs.

    I do not know whether the legislation has the capacity to avoid overwhelmed caregivers from being overtaxed because additional ex-research companion animals may come into the rehoming network. In relation to identifying suitable homes for animals, rehoming is a specialised area—not everyone can rehome a dog or a cat. Not everyone has the physical dimensions that are required for rehoming. For example, a bull-mastiff or a Great Dane could not be accommodated in a 56-square-metre, single-bedroom unit in Sydney. Such rehoming would be inappropriate for those animals. Common sense needs to be applied to the capacity of individuals who want to be potential rehomers.

    The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: What about birds?

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH: I should not respond to interjections but the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps has raised a very good point. In discussions about this legislation some groups mentioned mice. Mice and guinea pigs as well as birds are used in research. How are they being used, and to what extent? The Minister said that the datasets have failed. Following the Hon. Mark Pearson’s second reading speech, the Minister returned to his office and asked what sort of numbers we were talking about and the department could not tell him. We do not know how many animals are being used for research. So where do we go now? What is next? I will touch on other issues that have been raised with me. In answer to my request for input on this legislation, one respondent stated:

    I am concerned that the bill in its current form could have unintended consequences leading to adverse ethical or animal welfare outcomes.

    The respondent supported the intent of the legislation but is concerned about where it will take us into the future. We should all be mindful of unintended consequences when considering legislation. The respondent encouraged the concept of the rehoming of research animals being undertaken through an existing regulatory framework. That is what the Minister indicated in his contribution earlier today. The respondent continued:

    Of particular concern is the prescriptive time limit of 6 months (or 12 months with additional regulatory approval) after which animals must be rehomed (subsection3). The underlying rationale is that the conditions inside research facilities would make animals incapable of adapting to life in a private home if held longer than this sort of timeframe.

    No specific evidence was presented in the second reading speech, so I would like the bill’s proponent to address the views and concerns raised by this respondent. One organisation suggested that imposing arbitrary time limits may in fact increase the number of animals used in research as the turnover will be higher. That is one of the unintended consequences in this legislation. I ask the Hon. Mark Pearson to address that matter in his reply speech. Another respondent stated:

    Also of concern is the bill’s proposal in subsection 7 that determination of an animal’s suitability for rehoming must be made by someone “who is not associated with an authorised person or licensed animal supplier” … There is also nothing in the bill to stipulate that a veterinarian undertaking the determination should have relevant experience.

    Concern was expressed to me that not all veterinarians are conversant with the processes of the facility that is using animals for research. The wording in the bill needs to be strengthened to identify who is able to make that determination and what type of experience is required to do so. Another practical concern is the lack of provision for situations where an appropriate home cannot be found for animals that have been deemed suitable for rehoming. The concern is that there will be pressure to rehome an animal in an unsuitable place simply to meet the requirements of the legislation. That goes to the issue of arbitrary time limits. I ask the Hon. Mark Pearson to address that issue in reply. The concern is that meeting regulatory compliance quickly will put more pressure on facilities to rehome animals, and I do not think that is the intent of the bill.

    This bill is well intentioned, and the Hon. Mark Pearson should take great heart from the fact that the Government has already commenced action on some aspects of it and the Minister has taken issues on board and is taking other actions. As I said earlier, it is not often that Opposition members—it is even rarer for crossbench members—have legislation pass this Chamber so prompting the Government to act is a good result. I would like the Hon. Mark Pearson to address the Opposition’s concerns in his reply speech. The Opposition will support the legislation if it is put to a vote. But at this point in time I ask the member to clarify those important matters for people who are engaged in this debate. They need some answers. I reiterate that the Opposition will support the bill.

    Debate adjourned.

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