THE RSPCA is calling for the introduction of mandatory reporting of animal cruelty, from workers who are expected to understand animal welfare legislation by virtue of their roles.
The RSPCA made the fresh plea for change at a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra today.
The proposed changes would make it a legal requirement for people in positions of responsibility to report animal cruelty incidents to relevant authorities.
The RSPCA says mandatory reporting would help to create a culture where people are aware of their responsibilities to protect animals, and animal abuse or neglect isn’t tolerated.
The proposed changes would also include whistleblower protections for those reporting cruelty to ensure they don’t suffer reprisals.
The calls have been prompted by recent debate over the introduction of so called “ag-gag” laws into Australia and PETA’s recent expose of Australian shearing sheds which highlighted animal cruelty incidents.
RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said recent media reports had focussed on people – or animal activists - who’ve filmed without permission in agricultural facilities and published information online or via the media.
But Ms Neil said sadly the fate of the animals involved seems to have been lost in the current debate.
She said the fact that eye witnesses have also seen those events take place had also been lost which begs the question: why has it taken a camera to bring that animal abuse to light?
“The senseless brutality to sheep exposed last month should have shocked the nation, but instead the debate became focused on the messenger,” she said.
“The RSPCA believes that anyone witnessing animal cruelty has a moral obligation to report it to the relevant authorities.
“But there are some people who, by the nature of their role, are expected to know what animal cruelty is and when action should be taken.
“These people should have a legal obligation to report cruelty when they see it.”
Ms Neil said the changes would require increased government support to ensure all agencies in charge of implementing animal welfare regulation are adequately resourced to enable them to respond to the increased number of cruelty reports.
She said funding for training is also needed to ensure people know what cases they should and should not report, and public education is vital to make the community aware of the extent of their responsibility to report animal cruelty.
“All these measures are essential if we are to provide Australian animals with the protection they deserve,” she said.