Hunting Dog Ban - ACT

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More madness out of Canberra this week with the announcement that using dogs to hunt will be banned, under proposed animal welfare laws under consideration by the ACT government. 

However the wording of the bill could mean a sport with no live ammunition or game may also be illegal, with participants facing huge fines or even jail time.

The Canberra Times reported the legislation would also bring in penalties of up to $48,000 or three years in jail for people who "take part in a violent animal activity", which includes using an animal to hunt or catch another animal, or to fight, injure or kill another animal.

This includes organised animal fights, hunting competitions or live baiting.
 

Those who attend "violent animal activities" or are at the venue of the activity within two hours of it starting also risk penalties of up to $16,000 or one year in jail.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the use of dogs to hunt posed welfare risks to both the animal being hunted and the dog.

"The objects of the bill are to recognise that animals are sentient beings with intrinsic value, that animals deserve to be

treated with compassion and have a quality of life that reflects their intrinsic value, and that people have a duty to care for animals," Mr Steel said.

However, the definition of live baiting also includes using simulated animals to train the dog to race or hunt.

The latest bill aligns exactly with the anti-hunting RSPCA's animal rights agenda. (Previously, the RSPCA has been proven to act outside its charter by being political activists in the area of animal rights, as aopposed to animal welfare.)  RSPCA ACT chief executive Michelle Robertson said while the organisation advocated the use of alternatives to hunting of animals for sport, they did not approve of flushing and retrieving as there was a risk animals could be hurt. 

"RSPCA ACT is opposed to the hunting of any animal for sport as it causes unnecessary injury, pain, suffering, distress or death to the animals involved. There are many well-established disciplines which simulate hunting and can be enjoyed recreationally without the use of animals," Ms Robertson said.

The NSW Gun Dog Society called it out perfectly.

"As the ACT is a highly urbanised small community with limited open space available for hunting, this legislation is clearly a platform for the RSPCA to move in other States".

ACT Gundog Society Meaghan O’Shannassy, whose family has been involved with the gundog club for generations, said there was no live game or live ammunition involved in the sport, which uses dummies to test the dogs' ability.

She said the club ran two trials a year which could be affected by the legislation. There were about 40 members of the club, all of whom love and look after their dogs and had been blindsided by the proposed ban, she said.

"Our dogs are well looked after and we always do the right thing by them," Ms O’Shannassy said.

Dogs ACT president Simon Mills said they were in discussions with the government about activities like lure coursing could be

affected by the ban.

Lure coursing allows dogs to test their coursing instinct on plastic bags. Originally developed as a safe way of testing sighthound instinct, it is now an Australian National Kennel Council sport for all breeds and crossbred dogs, Mr Mills said.
 

"At no time is anything other than plastic permitted to be used as a lure under Australian National Kennel Council rules. The dogs are employing the same instinct that makes them chase a tennis ball," he said.

Other gundog sports involve the finding, flushing and retrieving of game.

"These sports test the dogs’ original functions of finding, flushing and retrieving game only. A dog that flushes an animal before being cued, that chases any animal or that returns game that has been mouthed too hard is penalised," Mr Mills said.

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