The Victorian government is delivering on its election pledge to ensure lost pets return home sooner, with legislation due to be introduced in Parliament today.
The change means the Victorians will soon be able to take a lost dog or cat to a participating veterinary clinic or registered animal shelter to find its owner, rather than relying on advice.
At present, lost cats and dogs must be handed over to an authorized agent in the municipality where the animal is located, or to veterinarians and shelters that have an agreement under the Domestic Animals Act 1994.
Surveys show that only 23% of vets have a contract with the board to accept lost animals, and as a result, many animals spend more time in pounds and shelters. The proposed reforms:
- Enable participating shelters and veterinarians to accept and reunite lost animals directly with their owners, with simple record keeping and reporting requirements
- Improve animal welfare by ensuring that lost pets return home as quickly as possible
- Reduce the burden on local councils, allowing vets and shelters to help with direct reunification services
- Improve the operations of regulatory authorities, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria.
The Pet Amendment (Pet Reunification and Other Matters) Bill 2021 includes a robust verification process to ensure animals are returned to the correct owner.
It also identifies the circumstances under which pets should come to the board to protect public safety and animal welfare. This includes situations where an animal is declared unsafe or the property cannot be verified.
These reforms are important because Victoria has high rates of pet ownership, with an average of 665,000 dogs and 215,000 cats registered with the boards each year.
Extensive consultation with the community and stakeholders including veterinarians, boards, shelters, animal registration services (microchip), rescue groups and community foster care networks was an important part of the process which led to the final form of the legislation.
The new provisions will take effect by October 1, 2022. For more information, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au.
As Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said
“When a pet goes missing, it’s stressful for the animal and its owners. This reform will make reuniting pets with their owners much easier and faster, thus improving the well-being of all involved.
“We will ensure that lost animals are reunited with their owners sooner and will reduce pressure on the boards by allowing veterinary clinics and registered animal shelters to play a greater role in the reunification process.”