Mixed news from the NSW Legislative Assemby today as the debate on ammendments to the Companion Animals Act resumed. The discussions were aimed at greater undestanding of the proposed bill set forth by the NSW Labor Party in allowing animals to be in outdoor cafe areas with their owners.
The legislation passed through the house, allowing dogs to be in cafe areas with their owners under some conditions:
1) Dogs must be leashed at all times while within the food consumption areas
2) No food can be provided to the dog in the consumption area
3) The area must be in an un-enclosed space and must be accessible without passing through an enclosed space
4) Permission is given by the operator for dogs to be within the consumption area
5) Dangerous dogs are not allowed within a food consumption area
6) Banned breeds are not allowed within a food consumption area, and finally and most importantly
7) These rules apply to food consumption areas, within Off Leash Dog Parks.
The original policy proposed by the Liberal Party allowed for specific exclusions of the act in relation to off leash dog parks. This would enable operators (such as Cafe Bones) to continue to serve dog treats and their world famous dog drinks to their patrons. It would also allow them to serve patrons who had dogs off leash around the cafe areas.
Understandably, dogs in any part of an off-leash area would have to be under effective voice control of their owners, limiting the risk to patrons and guests of the park and cafe areas.
City of Sydney representitve, Clover Moore, expressed great support for the changes that would enable her to take her dog with her husband to outdoor areas of cafes and to enjoy the time together. While she supported the bill she expressed displeasure in previous changes to the Companion Animals Act which only sought to penalise irresponsible owners vs promoting responsible animal ownership.
Moore, a dog owner, believes that the legislation proposed would make people more social with their animals and improve the general acceptance of dogs in NSW while also removing the problems currently faced by Cafe owners, who break the law in order to allow people to sit at their tables with their dogs on leash. The City of Sydney currently promotes responsible animal ownership with their free microchipping programs and with expansion of off leash areas and believes that the City of Sydney has a high rate of animal ownership and ultimately her citizens win from this legislation.
What Moore does next should be interesting, with pushes to new changes to the legislation hinted that will allow animals on public transport and within other areas that animals are currently prohibited from. She sees the City of Sydney as progressive and wants more animals to be allowed to live within apartments, which make up the majority of housing in her area.
Tony Roberts, of the Liberal Party, spoke to claims of 70% dog ownership in NSW, but expressed concerns that we were falling behind other states (such as Victoria and South Australia) and other modern cities (such as London) in how we handle domestic animal ownership in NSW. While supporting the bill, he also explained that the Liberal Policy may have been better as it was much simpler for the general public to understand. He also explained that dangerous people, not dangerous dogs would pose a greater risk to the community and that the majority (99.99% he explained) of dog owners are responsible and good, loving people.
Alan Ashton (ALP) jumped on board to promote more animals in public places, including hospitals. Ashton believes that patients can have an expedited recovery and improved general mental health in hospitals when they are visited by companion animals. (He did not distinguish between Therapy, Assistance of Companion animals). Jokingly, he suggested that “if you don’t love cats and dogs, animals and the beach boys, then you have a problem with life”.
While Ashton was the first to promote the leashing of dogs in off leash parks around food consumption areas, explaining that the risks of dog attacks was higher where food is not provided to dogs and where they are tethered he was not the last, with Robert Furolo following up with details on how dogs must be on leash even in off leash areas. He also explained that while the legislation permits dogs being in outdoor eating areas, permission must be granted by the operator.
Barbara Perry (ALP) solidified it for the Government, by outlining the terms of their proposal (as mentioned above). While the Liberal Party (Chris Hartcher) sought specific exclusions for off leash areas, Perry explained that this was irresponsible and not in line with the overall policy brought forwards. She concluded the debate by explaining that the risk to patrons and staff of off-leash cafes was too great to allow dogs off leash in these areas.
The question was put and passed. Bill agreed to in principle. Acting Speaker (Ms Beamer) declared the bill to have passed the House.