Draft Animal Welfare Act Amendment Bill

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​NRE Tas invites submissions on the Draft Animal Welfare Act Amendment Bill 2022.

A copy of the Draft bill can be downloaded below:

 Animal Welfare Act Amendment Bill - Consultation Copy (PDF 200Kb)​

Key amendments within the Draft Bill seek to support and further strengthen the provisions under the Animal Welfare Act 1993 (the Act) for the enforcement and prosecution of animal welfare offences in Tasmania. 

At this time feedback is only being sought on the draft amendments, and feedback on changes to the regulations and guidelines is not being invited in this round of public consultation, and will be sought in subsequent revisions of the regulations.​

Please note that a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) has not been prepared, as a preliminary assessment found that the introduction of these new laws for animal welfare is unlikely to impose new regulatory burdens and impacts on business competition in the animal industries, and potentially the broader Tasmanian community. 

How to have your say​

Submissions​ are open until the close of business on 20 July 2022.

You can make a submission online:

Alternatively you can email or post your submission:

Postal submissions:
Animal Welfare Act Amendment Bill
Bisoecurity Tasmania
NRE Tasmania
GPO Box 44
Hobart TAS 7001

Proposed changes

You are encouraged to read the Draft Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2022​ prior to making a submission:

The Draft Bill is focussed on eleven important areas in the Act. The key amendment proposals include:
  1. Expanded meaning of ‘disposal’ and consequential amendments.
  2. Reversing the onus of proof so that an animal is assumed to belong to the person named as the owner in any animal welfare complaint unless proven otherwise.
  3. Animal research clarifications.
  4. Animal cruelty and aggravated cruelty – correction and alternative verdict option.
  5. Ban on pronged collars.
  6. Expanded officer powers of entry.
  7. Expanded officer powers to take possession of animals.
  8. Additional Magistrates orders – seizure and disposal of animals at risk.
  9. Faster disposal of carcasses.
  10. Extraterritorial application for the purposes of requiring information.  
  11. Early cost recovery for care of seized animals.

​1. Expanded meaning of ‘disposal’ and consequential amendments

Amend the Act to clarify the meaning of ‘disposal’, to include euthanasia, sale or rehoming. 

It is useful to include the options available for disposal in the legislation, from euthanasia to sale or transfer of ownership to the RSPCA or the Crown. Equivalent legislation in other jurisdictions (for example, the ACT, Victoria and Queensland) include provisions regarding disposal.  Consequential expansion of disposal options under the Section 17 power to take possession of animals will allow a more efficient functioning of the legislation.

2. Onus of proo​f of animal ownership facilitated

Amend the Act to reverse the onus of proof so that an animal is assumed to belong to the person named as the owner in any animal welfare complaint unless proven otherwise. 

Currently a person in charge of an animal can simply deny ownership, making investigations and prosecutions difficult.  It has been dealt with under section 3A ‘Care of Charge of Animals’. 

3. Animal research clarifications

Amend the Act to clarify the provisions relating to animal research with respect to which activities require Animal Ethics Committee approval.

It is intended to add, for consistency, the non-application of section 10 (baiting and shooting) and section 11 (use of animals to train other animals) of the Act to approved animal research activities. It is also proposed that authorised disease surveillance and monitoring programs (using accepted methodologies) be added to the current exemptions from animal research licensing requirements under section 27.  The current exemptions are: observational studies, normal animal management operations and veterinary treatment administered for the welfare of the animal. 

Further, it is proposed to include provision that it is an offence to threaten, intimidate or abuse an inspector (animal research) appointed under the Act, as exists for an officer.

4. Animal cruelty and aggravated cruelty – correction and alternative verdict option

Amend the Act to provide for an alternative conviction under section 8 of the Act (cruelty) if a person is not found to have been intentional or reckless in causing suffering under section 9 (aggravated cruelty).  

This will allow a person charged with an offence under section 9 (aggravated cruelty) to instead be convicted of the less serious offence under section 8 in cases where the court finds cruelty has occurred but is not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that it was intentional or reckless. This will remove the current need for duplicitous charging under both section 8 and section 9 of the Act to allow for alternative verdicts.

Include a provision for consideration of “reckless behaviour” leading to animal suffering by expanding section 9 (aggravated cruelty) of the Act to include ‘reckless behaviour’ leading to animal suffering. Advice was received that this consideration is already embedded in section 9.

Amend section 8 (cruelty to animals) of the Act by inserting the word ‘may’ in subsection 8(2)(c) to fix a drafting error. Currently subsection 8(2)(c) of the Act states that a person is guilty of an offence if that person ‘drives, conveys, carries or packs an animal in a manner or position or in circumstances that subjects or (may) subject it to unreasonable and unjustifiable pain or suffering’.  The bracketed word ‘may’ was omitted in error.

5. Ban on pronged collars

Amend section 8 (2) of the Act to specifically ban the use of pronged collars as defined, on all species.  The known use is currently on dogs.

6. Expanded officer powers of entry

Amend section 16 of the Act to provide authorised officers with the power to enter premises (other than dwellings) to provide immediate assistance to animals in urgent need. 

It is important that officers are able to enter a property if they have reasonable grounds to believe an animal is suffering and they can provide assistance or take the animal to a veterinary surgeon. Suffering should not be prolonged or exacerbated because an officer is not able to access an animal until further evidence is presented.
Also amend the Act to allow authorised officers to obtain a warrant to enter dwellings to assist animals in urgent need.

7. Expanded officer power to take possession of animals 

To allow an officer to seize an animal where the officer has a reasonable belief an offence against the Sections 7 and 8 of the Act has been or is being committed, without the additional need to show that unless possession of the animal is taken its life will be endangered or any pain or suffering it is undergoing will be unreasonably or unjustifiably prolonged, as is currently the case.  

Under section 17(1), seizure is currently allowed only if there is an offence, and endangerment of life or present pain or suffering.

8. Additional magistrates orders – seizure and disposal of animals at risk

Amend section 17 to provide magistrates with the power to order the seizure and immediate disposal (by way of sale, rehoming, euthanasia, etcetera) of any animal at risk of suffering abuse or neglect in accordance with the proposed officer powers above. 

There is significant precedent for this in other State’s animal welfare legislation where the responsible Department reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent the animal from becoming the subject of an animal welfare offence.

9. Faster disposal of carcasses

Amend section 24 to reduce the time for which carcasses of animals euthanased by authorised officers must be kept from 7 days to 48 hours. 

Section 24 of the Act provides for officers or vets to kill animals for humane reasons. It also requires that the carcass of an animal killed in this manner is made available to the owner if the owner so requests within 7 days of the animal being killed. The time within which the carcass must be made available to the owner was increased from 24 hours to 7 days by a 2002 amendment to permit the prosecution adequate time to undertake post-mortem laboratory examination and testing. 

An unintended consequence of the amendment was that, in the absence of a request for its return, the carcass must be held for 7 days even if no tests are to be performed. This can provide difficulty in cases where appropriate storage may not be available (particularly for large animal carcasses). Carcases from animal welfare cases usually have no commercial value and are disposed of by deep burial in a municipal land fill.

10. Extraterritorial application for the purposes of requiring information.  

It is proposed to modify section 26 to include an express provision for being able to require information from people who are interstate (not in Tasmania).  It is further proposed to explicitly state that records or documents held by the person or persons are included in the information that may be required. This will ensure animal welfare compliance investigations are not prevented or impeded by key witnesses and evidence simply leaving Tasmania.

11. Early cost recovery for care of seized animals

Amend the Act to provide for early (pre-trial) cost recovery from animal owners for care of seized or treated animals and to remove doubt that this applies to costs incurred by the Crown. 

This power is particularly important in cases including large numbers of animals and/or protracted periods of care.  At present, section 22 of the Act provides for cost recovery by court order, but this follows a final determination of court proceedings which can take years.  

It is intended that a court will be able to provide cost orders so that the owner can be required to pay any costs and expenses properly incurred by a person providing care or treatment to an animal under the Act. This will allow a more efficient functioning of the legislation by alleviating financial burdens for animal care.

Section 45(2) of the Act provides a general head of power for a person to recover costs of functions performed under the Act (irrespective of whether the matter related to court proceedings) however there might be some doubt that the section applies to the Crown. The reason for this is section 41 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1931 which excludes the Crown from references in legislation to “a person”. The Act will be amended to remove all doubt that the Crown can recover costs in this fashion.

The Department is aware that there is public interest in the inclusion of the concept of ‘sentience’ for animal welfare.  This term can be defined as ‘the ability to feel, or perceive, or be conscious, or have subjective experiences as distinct from the ability to reason, and that these qualities can be attributed to many animals.’

Inclusion of ‘sentience’ in New Zealand and the ACT in the title or the objects of their animal welfare acts is largely symbolic and not enforceable.  Tasmania intends to include the concept in the animal welfare guidelines.

About your ​sub​​mission

Privacy a​nd​​ co​pyright information

Other than indicated below, submissions will be treated as public information and will be published on our website. No personal information other than an individual’s name or the organisation making a submission will be published.

Important Inf​orm​​ati​on to note

Your name (or the name of the organisation) will be published unless you request otherwise. 

If you would like your submission treated as confidential, whether in whole or in part, please indicate this at the time of making your submission, clearly identifying the parts of your submission you want to remain confidential and the reasons why. In this case, your submission will not be published to the extent of that request. 

In the absence of a clear indication that a submission is intended to be treated as confidential (or parts of the submission), the Department will treat the submission as public.

Copyright in submissions remains with the author(s), not with the Tasmanian Government.

The Department will not publish, in whole or in part, submissions containing defamatory or offensive material. If your submission includes information that could enable the identification of other individuals, then either all or parts of the submission will not be published.

Righ​​​​​​t to Informa​tion

Information provided to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania is subject to the Right to Information Act 2009. If you have indicated that you wish for all or part of your submission to be treated as confidential, this will be taken into account by the Department in determining whether or not the information is exempt from disclosure in the event that it is subject to an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act. The Department may contact you during this process.​