Companion Animals and Human Health and Wellbeing
AWLA Supports pet ownership as making an important and effective contribution to human health and wellbeing.
AWLA believes that the weight of evidence supporting the contention that caring for companion animals is beneficial to the health of humans is irrefutable. While some sources maintain that better physical health is no more or less likely to be enjoyed by pet owners, it is necessary to adopt a broader definition of health to include mental health, wellbeing and social engagement, as adopted by the World Health Organisation. Companion animals benefit children in the meeting their social needs and developing responsible behaviour; they help elderly people through providing unconditional affection and companionship; they have a positive impact on their owners/adopters whatever their age or particular characteristics.
AWLA advocates for the right of tenants to keep pets in rented premises, elderly people in aged care facilities and people with mental illness to have companion animals, and residents in multi-dwellings managed by body corporates, provided they can provide for the needs of animals; and supports law reform in all states to this effect. Too many individuals and families are heartbreakingly separated from their animal companions because they cannot be accommodated in rental properties.
Click here to read more on advocating for pets in aged care accommodation
Key Areas of Advocacy
- Rights of tenants to retain their companion animals in rental accommodation
- Rights of those living in centrally managed aged care facilities to have companion animals
- Rights of residents subject to the authority of a body corporate who are prevented from having a companion animal
- Rights of homeless and mentally ill people to take companion animals into emergency and crisis accommodation
Responsible Breeding Practices
AWLA advocates responsible breeding practices to reduce the number of unwanted and unhealthy dogs and cats and to prevent the unnecessary killing of companion animals.
AWLA advocates for a nationally consistent breeder permit system so that all cats and dogs are responsibly bred and have responsible carers available for life. Currently, companion animal breeding is largely unregulated and it is difficult to trace the origins of a particular animal to address irresponsible homing and poor breeding practices, as well as inhumane conditions of breeding. A national breeder permit system will provide benefits to companion animals and also to companion animal owners, socially responsible breeders and sellers, veterinarians and whole communities.
Key Areas of Advocacy
- Anyone who breeds companion animals must have a permit
- Breeders must pay for their permit
- On application for a permit, an independent government inspection must be conducted
- Inspections must be based on agreed regulated standards supported by detailed explanatory guidelines
- All kittens should be desexed before sale or transfer unless the purchaser has a breeder permit
- Subsidised desexing programs should be established for financially disadvantaged owners of companion animals
- All breeder permit numbers must be publicly available
- All breeding females and their litters must be microchipped and the breeder name, place of breeding, breeding parent microchip number recorded on government authorised microchip databases
- All state governments to work towards national consistency in the above regulations
AWLA advocates for adoption of pets from responsible shelters, rehoming centres and rescue organisations
- Adopting an animal is a highly ethical option. It is a powerful and practical way to improve the lives of animals.
- Animal adoption is an important part of the solution to reduce pet overpopulation.
- Adoption helps to reduce euthanasia of otherwise healthy and re-homable animals.
- By acquiring a puppy or kitten from other sources, it is possible buyers are unwittingly providing an incentive to irresponsible breeders who over-breed in conditions which are unlikely to ensure the physical, mental and emotional well-being of animals.
- In purpose-breeding and back-yard breeding operations, a breeding mother’s health can become seriously depleted through over-breeding. Offspring can inherit health problems and /or miss out on adequate handling and socialisation with humans.
- Adoption from responsible shelters, re-homing centres and rescue organisations provides benefits such as:
- Animals who are desexed, microchipped, vaccinated, wormed, parasite treated and vet checked – a saving for pet owners and a safeguard for animals
- Access to a wide selection of mixed and pure breed animals, who come with valuable information about health and personality
- Adult animals who may already be well socialised and trained
- The advantages inherent in adopting an adult cat or dog for those who prefer not to take on the rigors of a puppy or kitten
- Responsible shelters, re-homing centres and rescue organisations work hard to achieve a suitable match between pet and owner in order to provide the foundation for a strong and committed relationship.
Companion animals should be desexed at point of sale or transfer unless in an exempt category. Desexing exemptions can apply if:
- the animal is to be used for official purposes, trialling, showing or breed potential through a registered government authorised organisation, or
- if there is a veterinary-authorised medical condition which would put the animal at serious risk if desexed, or
- if the new owner has a government authorised permit for breeding.
All companion animals should be desexed unless in exempt categories.
All dogs and cats should be microchipped. Microchipping is recommended for all other companion animals where it is appropriate and feasible.
Euthanasia is only acceptable for companion animals who are:
- suffering from extreme and incurable illness or injury and lack of quality of life as defined by a veterinarian, or
- displaying dangerous behaviour with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation.
Policies and strategies should be developed to prevent euthanasia in pounds and shelters, so that all pound and shelter animals who are healthy or treatable (physically and behaviourally) can be rehomed.
Restricted Breeds and Breed Specific Legislation
- Dogs should not be identified as dangerous or a threat to people on the basis of their breed. Dog behaviour is influenced by many factors including conditions of breeding and early life, socialisation, genetics and the overall health of the dog.
- Breed specific legislation is not an effective means of preventing dangerous or threatening dog behaviour. There are circumstances when this could place people at greater risk because of assumptions about the temperament and behaviour of dogs of particular breeds.
- When a dog is suspected of exhibiting dangerous or threatening behaviour, the dog should be assessed using an approved Temperament Assessment performed by a qualified and recognised Animal Behaviourist or Animal Behavioural Trainer.
Anti Social Dogs and Dangerous Dogs
Core Principle One
Owners of dogs are responsible for the behaviour of their dogs.
The responsibility for the behaviour of a particular dog rests with the owner rather than with the dog. If a dog causes harm or damage, the legal owner of the dog must accept responsibility. This should be emphasised so that dog owners are motivated to take adequate protection measures to keep both people and their dogs safe.
Core Principle Two
A dangerous dog determination should never be made on the basis of breed or type, but on the specific observed behaviour of the dog in question.
All dogs of any breed or breed mix can display dangerous / anti social behaviour. The severity of these behaviours are often predetermined by factors that include but are not limited to:
- the circumstances of the dog’s breeding conditions
- whether the dog came from a responsible well-informed breeder, breeding for sound health and temperament
- the history of the breed (genetics)
- the extent of owner education and knowledge of dog behaviour
- noncompliance with appropriate advice to manage the dog (owner responsibility)
- inappropriate or inadequate socialisation or training for dogs
- health of the dog
- human behaviour around the dog
Core Principle Three
The determination of a ‘dangerous dog’ with implicit potentially serious consequences should be made by an expert in the field of dog behaviour.
Dogs should not be declared dangerous/anti social on the basis of breed but on the basis of aggressive behaviour, determined through an approved Temperament Assessment performed by a qualified and recognised Animal Behaviourist or Animal Behavioural Trainer.
If the dog has indisputably displayed unprovoked aggressive/anti social behaviour towards humans, the dog should be assessed by a qualified and recognised Animal Behaviourist or Animal Behavioural Trainer.
When a dog is classified as a ‘dangerous/anti social dog’, the dog should be assessed and an approved Temperament Assessment performed by a qualified and recognised Animal Behaviourist or Animal Behavioural Trainer.
Options should include but not be limited to:
- owner education programs
- management techniques, for example: confinement and restraint strategies, restriction equipment
- behaviour modification programs
Core Principle Four
Prevention is better than cure.
Prevention solutions include but are not limited to:
- registration of breeders
- education of breeders on breeding for sound temperament
- education of owners on dogs and their management
- education programs for children on appropriate behaviour around dogs
- earlier identification of individual animals that potentially pose a risk, along with effective advice and support
- structured intervention to protect the health and safety of the public against an aggressive dog, regardless of breed, while protecting the rights of responsible owners.
We support pet shops in their role as suppliers of pet equipment. If pet shops choose to offer animals for sale, they should rehome dogs and cats on behalf of shelters/pounds or from government-authorised breeders who abide by a Code of Practice with exemplary animal welfare standards.
Pet shops should be subject to Codes of Practice and unannounced regulatory inspections.
We advocate strongly for education to develop a community which is informed about and respectful of companion animals, to enable responsible care for companion animals and to prevent their neglect, mistreatment and abandonment.
- animal owner education
- primary, secondary and tertiary student education
- community education
As advocates of the value of the companion animal-human bond, we encourage all stakeholders to become involved in education and training programs which develop this bond.
Breeding of Companion Animals
We encourage responsible breeding practices. We are opposed to industrial scale or indiscriminate or uncontrolled breeding and any neglect and cruelty towards breeding animals and their litters.
All companion cats and dogs should be enclosed safely on their owner’s property and should not be allowed to roam freely. They should only leave the owners property on a leash or under effective control.
We strongly oppose the practice of Animal Hoarding.
AWLA does not support the exploitation of dogs for sport, gambling or entertainment purposes. Racing greyhounds face negative welfare outcomes during training, transportation and racing. An unacceptably high number of healthy greyhounds are injured, discarded and euthanased annually across Australia. Also, the industry has proven incapable of safeguarding the welfare of the vast majority of dogs considered unviable for racing.
Because of these issues, we advocate for an end to greyhound racing in Australia. While greyhound racing remains active, we support:
- revision of the current regulatory regime to ensure effective and transparent control of all aspects of the industry
- the introduction of mandatory and enforceable welfare standards for the breeding, sale and post-racing treatment of greyhound
- registration and identification requirements applying to other breeds of dogs also applying to greyhounds
- consistent and rigorous enforcement of the Rules of Racing