Monday, December 7, 2009

Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines for dogs

It is an all too common problem. The RSPCA receives thousands of calls from concerned members of the community each and every year regarding dogs that are permanently tethered or kept in pens in backyards across the country.

Current codes of practice for the keeping of cats and dogs are voluntary and are unable to be enforced by RSPCA Inspectors. New guidelines for animal welfare would aim to produce standards that reflect scientific knowledge and community expectations that are able to be maintained and enforced.

First and foremost, owners are responsible for the health and welfare of their dogs and must provide both the basic necessities and a good quality of life for their pet. New standards of welfare would address problems associated with owners not providing their pet with adequate care. This includes providing sufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary treatment.

While different sized animals will have different exercise needs, under the new guidelines dogs would be required to be given adequate daily exercise off tether our outside of enclosures. Exercise includes both physical effort and mental stimulation. This could include taking the dog for a walk when appropriate, letting the dog run freely in the backyard, playing a game with the dog or letting them explore and have social contact in a designated off leash park.

An owner’s ability to keep a dog should be thought about well before acquiring one. Choosing a breed/type suitable to lifestyle and circumstances is essential to be able to maintain these minimum standards of care. Such things as size, activity level, temperament and type all factor into an owner’s ability to meet its dog’s needs. Other factors include the costs of caring and the time it takes to provide the dog with exercise, grooming and social contact.

As all responsible pet owners would agree, these proposed minimum standards are able to be easily maintained. New standards and guidelines will formalise a national code and ensure animals receive adequate levels of care.



  1. The information in the media regarding this issue has been of gret concern to me. I am a vet nurse and have a number of clients who for their dogs own safety have to keep them enclosed or tethered. They do of course exercise their dogs, but neighbours tend to pick and choose when they observe their neightbours activities.
    I also have clients who have dogs that cannot be exercised for a variety of reasons. I would like to know how the new guidelines and their enforcement would be allowing for such dogs. Two of these are my own dogs. One is developing arthritis in her hips and activity inside is hard to reduce let alone calm her down outside and she definately can't go for a walk. The other dog has a spinal injury that result in the amputation of one hind leg, a short wander in the yard is all he can handle, he is also having problem with arthritis in his remaining limbs. I don't want to have to deal with ongoing debate about my dogs ability to be exercise. Please convince me this new push wont put dogs health at risk.

  2. Essentially the recent media represents an outcome from the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and is model legislation. This draft legislation is a long way from being law in NSW, as it stands the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in NSW requires that the person in charge of an animal which is confined shall not fail to provide the animal with adequate exercise. The use of the words ‘adequate exercise’ essentially allows the individual circumstances of each animal to be taken into account when this section of the act is applied by inspectors.

    We envisage that when the legislation is drafted, it will be done in a manner that provides exemption for animals under the treatment of veterinary surgeons. It will also have to be developed in a manner that doesn’t create conflict with existing legislation, such as the dangerous dog provisions of the Companion Animals Act.