Policy and Position Statements
Animal adoption and foster care
ACAN advocates for the adoption of pets from responsible shelters, rehoming centres and rescue organisations.
Adoption is a highly ethical option. It is a powerful and practical way to improve the lives of animals.
It helps to reduce pet over-population and euthanasia rates of otherwise healthy and re-homable animals.
By acquiring a puppy or kitten from other sources, buyers may unwittingly provide an incentive to irresponsible breeders who are unlikely to ensure the physical, mental and emotional well-being of animals.
In purpose-breeding and backyard breeding operations, a breeding mother’s health can become seriously depleted. Offspring can inherit health problems and/or miss out on adequate handling and socialisation with humans.
Adoption from responsible shelters, re-homing centres and rescue organisations provides benefits such as:
- Animals who are desexed, microchipped, vaccinated, wormed, parasite treated and vet checked – a saving for pet owners and a safeguard for animals;
- Access to a wide selection of mixed and pure breed animals, who come with valuable information about health and personality;
- Adult animals who may already be well socialised and trained;
- The advantages inherent in adopting an adult cat or dog for those who prefer not to take on the rigors of a puppy or kitten; and
- Responsible shelters, re-homing centres and rescue organisations work hard to achieve a suitable match between pet and owner in order to provide the foundation for a strong and committed relationship.
All companion cats and dogs should be enclosed safely on their owner’s property and should not be allowed to roam freely. They should only leave the owner’s property on a leash or under effective control.
Anti-social and dangerous dogs
Core Principle One
Owners of dogs are responsible for the behaviour of their dogs.
The responsibility for the behaviour of a particular dog rests with the owner rather than with the dog. If a dog causes harm or damage, the legal owner of the dog must accept responsibility. This should be emphasised so that dog owners are motivated to take adequate protection measures to keep both people and their dogs safe.
Core Principle Two
A dangerous dog determination should never be made on the basis of breed or type, but on the specific observed behaviour of the dog in question.
All dogs of any breed or breed mix can display dangerous / anti social behaviour. The severity of these behaviours is often predetermined by factors that include but are not limited to:
- the circumstances of the dog’s breeding conditions
- whether the dog came from a responsible well-informed breeder, breeding for sound health and temperament
- the history of the breed (genetics)
- the extent of owner education and knowledge of dog behaviour
- noncompliance with appropriate advice to manage the dog (owner responsibility)
- inappropriate or inadequate socialisation or training for dogs
- health of the dog
- human behaviour around the dog
Core Principle Three
The determination of a ‘dangerous dog’ with implicit potentially serious consequences should be made by an expert in the field of dog behaviour.
Dogs should not be declared dangerous/anti social on the basis of breed but on the basis of aggressive behaviour, determined through an approved Temperament Assessment performed by a qualified and recognised Animal Behaviourist or Animal Behavioural Trainer.
If the dog has indisputably displayed unprovoked aggressive/anti social behaviour towards humans, the dog should be assessed by a qualified and recognised Animal Behaviourist or Animal Behavioural Trainer.
When a dog is classified as a ‘dangerous/anti social dog’, the dog should be assessed and an approved Temperament Assessment performed by a qualified and recognised Animal Behaviourist or Animal Behavioural Trainer.
Options should include but not be limited to:
- owner education programs;
- management techniques, for example: confinement and restraint strategies, restriction equipment;
- behaviour modification programs;
- medication; and
Core Principle Four
Prevention is better than cure.
Prevention solutions include but are not limited to:
- registration of breeders;
- education of breeders on breeding for sound temperament;
- education of owners on dogs and their management;
- education programs for children on appropriate behaviour around dogs;
- earlier identification of individual animals that potentially pose a risk, along with effective advice and support; and
- structured intervention to protect the health and safety of the public against an aggressive dog, regardless of breed, while protecting the rights of responsible owners.
ACAN advocates for responsible breeding practices to reduce the number of unwanted and unhealthy pets and also to prevent their unnecessary killing.
We are opposed to industrial scale, indiscriminate and uncontrolled breeding.
We are opposed to any neglect and cruelty towards breeding animals and their litters.
We advocate for a nationally consistent breeder permit system so that all cats and dogs are bred responsibly and have responsible carers for life.
Companion animal breeding is not sufficiently regulated. Therefore, it is often difficult to trace the origins of an animal to address irresponsible homing and breeding practices, as well as inhumane conditions. A national breeder permit system will provide benefits to pets and their owners, responsible breeders, sellers, veterinarians and communities.
At minimum, the following standards should be applied across Australia:
- Anyone who breeds companion animals must have a permit;
- Breeders must pay for their permit;
- On application for a permit, an independent government inspection must be conducted;
- Inspections must be based on agreed regulated standards supported by detailed explanatory guidelines;
- All kittens should be desexed before sale or transfer unless the purchaser has a breeder permit;
- Subsidised desexing programs should be established for financially disadvantaged owners of companion animals;
- All breeder permit numbers must be publicly available;
- All breeding females and their litters must be microchipped and the breeder name, place of breeding, breeding parent microchip number recorded on government authorised microchip databases; and
- All state governments must work towards national consistency in the above regulation.
Companion animals should be desexed at point of sale or transfer unless in an exempt category. Desexing exemptions can apply if:
- The animal is to be used for official purposes, trialling, showing or breed potential through a government-authorised (properly registered) organisation;
- There is a veterinary-authorised medical condition which would put the animal at serious risk if desexed; or
- The new owner has a government-authorised permit for breeding.
We advocate strongly for education to develop a community which is informed about and respectful of companion animals, to enable responsible care for companion animals and to prevent their neglect, mistreatment and abandonment.This includes:
- animal owner education
- primary, secondary and tertiary student education
- community education
As advocates of the value of the companion animal-human bond, we encourage all stakeholders to become involved in education and training programs which develop this bond.
Euthanasia is only acceptable for companion animals who are:
- Suffering from extreme and incurable illness or injury and lack of quality of life as defined by a veterinarian; or
- Displaying dangerous behaviour with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation.
Policies and strategies should be developed to prevent euthanasia in pounds and shelters, so that all pound and shelter animals who are healthy or treatable (physically and behaviourally) can be rehomed.
Australia CAN does not support the exploitation of dogs for sport, gambling or entertainment purposes. Racing greyhounds face negative welfare outcomes during training, transportation and racing. An unacceptably high number of healthy greyhounds are injured, discarded and euthanased annually across Australia. Also, the industry has proven incapable of safeguarding the welfare of the vast majority of dogs considered unviable for racing.
Because of these issues, we advocate for an end to greyhound racing in Australia. While greyhound racing remains active, we support:
- revision of the current regulatory regime to ensure effective and transparent control of all aspects of the industry
- the introduction of mandatory and enforceable welfare standards for the breeding, sale and post-racing treatment of greyhound
- registration and identification requirements applying to other breeds of dogs also applying to greyhounds
- consistent and rigorous enforcement of the Rules of Racing
All dogs and cats should be microchipped. Microchipping is recommended for all other companion animals where it is appropriate and feasible.
We support pet shops in their role as suppliers of pet equipment. If pet shops choose to offer animals for sale, they should rehome dogs and cats on behalf of shelters/pounds or from government-authorised breeders who abide by a Code of Practice with exemplary animal welfare standards.
Pet shops should be subject to Codes of Practice and unannounced regulatory inspections.
ACAN supports law reform in all states and territories to achieve fair outcomes for tenants and their pets. We support tenants who are responsible pet owners and abide by government regulations. We advocate for the right of Australians to have pets, regardless of their residential situation. Tenants and body corporate members should not be prevented from having pets. Pet-friendly outcomes for tenants and their animals will enable them to enjoy the immense health and social benefits of the human-animal bond and reduce surrender rates to animal welfare services. For more information, visit our Rent With Pets website.
ACAN’s objective is to keep older Australians together with their own pets. We advocate for this outcome for the following reasons:
The human-animal bond
Research confirms that the human-animal bond provides important physical, mental and social benefits for older owners and their pets. Simply put, the outcomes for the animal and their owner are better in circumstances where it is reasonable for them to remain together. Hardships such as illness , grief and loneliness are greatly magnified when an older person loses or is denied regular contact with the pet. Those entering the aged-care sector are particularly at risk of losing or being denied regular contact with their pet. ACAN’s 2017 audit of more than 2,300 advertised Australian aged- care services found that while 33 per cent of residential facilities had implemented a shared pet program, only 19 per cent allowed the owner and their pet to remain together. Only 9 per cent of in-home care providers said they offered or facilitated a pet-friendly service.
ACAN organisations are directly affected when an aged-care service is not pet-friendly. Elderly-related reasons were responsible for around 7% of animal surrenders to our members’ direct-care services in 2017. Application of the ACAN trend to RSPCA data suggests that the overall number of elderly- related surrenders to all rehoming, care and holding facilities in Australia is well in excess of 4,000 dogs and cats per annum. Elderly-related reasons for animal surrenders include, but are not limited to:
Owner moving to nursing home or care facility that is not pet-friendly;
Death of owner;
Unsuitable pet accommodation at home;
Inability or unwillingness of family members to care for the pet; and
Lack of financial means.
Regulatory & service barriers
All companion animal welfare laws are state-based. This makes it almost impossible to apply a uniform standard of pet-friendliness across Australia. In fact, there is no specific regulation of pet care in aged-care facilities at the state or federal level. Instead, regulations appear to be made largely by individual aged-care organisations or through reference to non-animal regulatory frameworks, such as workplace health and safety laws. Service-delivery barriers include a lack of funding for specific programs, shortages of employees and volunteers who are able to deliver pet-friendly support, and legal concerns.
Australia has an ageing population and, according to a widely reported 2013 Animal Health Alliance study, we have the third highest rate (63 per cent) of pet ownership in the world, only marginally behind the United States (65 per cent) and New Zealand (64 per cent). It is reasonable to assume that the future clients of the aged-care sector will demand a much broader set of solutions for themselves and their pets.
ACAN believes service providers who differentiate their practices and policies towards pet- friendly models of care are likely to reap a range of market-based benefits. We have witnessed how pet-friendly services ease the client transition to aged-care settings, encourage up-take of services and provide reputational benefits to the supplier.
For more information, please view or download a copy of the 2018 AWLA Pets in Aged Care National Snapshot:
Visit our Positive Ageing in the Company of Animals website to discover how to be pet-friendly to the elderly.
Resident school dogs
ACAN generally does not support the introduction of Resident School Dogs because of the significant risks to the physical and mental wellbeing of the dog. However, there may be exceptions to this position.
The advice and guidelines do not apply to Assistance Dogs and do not preclude all risks. To maximise the chances of successful outcomes, seek further advice from a veterinary behaviourist.
Restricted breeds and breed-specific legislation
Dogs should not be identified as dangerous or a threat to people on the basis of their breed. Dog behaviour is influenced by many factors, including conditions of breeding and early life, socialisation, genetics and the overall health of the dog.
Breed-specific legislation is not an effective means of preventing dangerous or threatening dog behaviour. There are circumstances when this could place people at greater risk because of assumptions about the temperament and behaviour of dogs of particular breeds.
When a dog is suspected of exhibiting dangerous or threatening behaviour, the dog should be assessed using an approved temperament assessment performed by a qualified and recognised animal behaviourist or animal behavioural trainer.