General News

Pawsome news for animals across the state

The NSW Legislative Assembly today passed the Companion Animals Amendment (Rehoming Animals) Bill 2021 in an important first step towards further safeguarding impounded animals across the state.

RSPCA NSW commends every effort to introduce additional checks and balances in the animal welfare sector and supports the positive welfare impacts the Bill will have on impounded animals.

On behalf of the thousands of lost and surrendered animals who find themselves in council pounds each year, RSPCA NSW thanks the Hon. Emma Hurst of the Animal Justice Party and Member for Sydney Mr Alex Greenwich for their work in championing the Bill, and the NSW Government for their support.

“This is a huge step in the right direction and will help build on a lot of the good work that many councils have already achieved” said RSPCA NSW CEO Steve Coleman.

“Every animal deserves a fair go at a second chance, and we can only achieve this by working together.

“More than anything, this Bill sets up the framework for a solid network dedicated to saving more animals lives.”

The amendment outlines the steps a council must take towards rehoming a seized or surrendered animal, including working with rehoming organisations, to provide impounded animals the chance to be rehomed.

The proposed reforms include:

  • Before action is taken to destroy a seized or surrendered animal, councils must give written notice to at least two rehoming organisations to inform them that the animal is available for rehoming and take reasonable steps to advertise the animal as available for rehoming. The written notice must specify the period of time, not less than seven days from the date the notice is given, during which the animal is available for rehoming.
  • If a rehoming organisation, whether or not the organisation was given written notice, provides the council written notice that it is able to rehome an animal, the council must not destroy the animal and must make arrangements to transfer the animal to the organisation for rehoming.
  • Councils must keep records that identify animals that have been rehomed. Councils must also keep records that identify animals that have been destroyed, with a record of the actions that council took to rehome the animal and alternative action the council considered before destroying the animal.

RSPCA NSW welcomes the opportunity to work with the Minister for Local Government the Hon. Wendy Tuckerman MP on the implementation of the Bill to ensure the accompanying regulations assist councils and rehoming organisations to best achieve the Bill’s intent, with minimal additional burden on councils and animal shelters across the state including appropriate resourcing.

This includes highlighting several important welfare considerations for inclusion in the regulations:

  • That the onus must be on councils to ensure a rehoming organisation has the capacity to take the animals they are giving to them, to avoid overcrowding and hoarding, and to ensure the rescue is exercising responsible rehoming practices before additional animals are sent into their care.
  • The need for detailed information to be required in the notice sent by a council to a rehoming organisation, including but not limited to the animal’s microchip number, age, weight, breed, physical condition assessment, behaviour assessment, and information on how the council came to take care of the animal.
  • The need to allow shelters to opt in or out of the scheme. There are many reasons a particular shelter may wish to be in or out of this scheme, and it is appropriate that they have the ability to choose what works for them given the operational impacts they may soon face.

RSPCA NSW was concerned to see a last-minute change to the amendment made, which places the onus and financial burden of transporting animals between facilities on the shoulders of shelters and rehoming organisations. This will impact rescues that are already time-poor and under-resourced, often relying on donations and volunteers to ensure animals are cared for. It is our hope that this will not impact the ability for councils and animal rescue organisations to create cost sharing agreements between them, as many already do.

These changes once again show the reliance of the NSW Government and the local government sector on animal rehoming charities and organisations, and we continue to advocate for additional resourcing to help rescue organisations care for all creatures great and small.

RSPCA NSW also thanks Minister Tuckerman for her commitment to review animal rehoming practices in NSW, and we look forward to participating in this review to aid the NSW Government’s formation of a comprehensive reform package that will deliver for all stakeholders.