Strengthening Animal Welfare and Protection

Animal welfare and protection measures in the Northern Territory have been strengthened with the creation of the new Animal Protection Act (‘the Act’)

The new Act, which will replace the current Animal Welfare Act, serves to more clearly define the rights, roles and responsibilities of government, industry and the community with respect to animal welfare and protection.

Key changes under the new Act include:

  • broadening the existing definition of animal to now cover bony fish, sharks and rays, crustaceans and cephalopods (squid and octopuses), irrespective of whether or not they are in captivity and dependent on a person for food;
  • significantly increasing penalties for animal cruelty offences, including for failing to provide an adequate level of care;
  • enhanced powers of entry for Authorised Officers under the Act to follow-up on reports of animal cruelty and neglect;
  • the power to prescribe and enforce codes of practice and standards relevant to animal welfare;
  • the ability to issue animal welfare directions and improvement notices to those who provide inadequate care to animals, with penalties for those who do not comply;
  • registering scientific users of animals for scientific purposes, rather than the current practice of licensing premises;
  • providing accredited animal ethics committees with increased oversight for research projects they approve; and
  • respecting the rights of Aboriginal Territorians to undertake cultural, hunting and fishing practices in compliance with Aboriginal traditional law and custom.

It will be a defence under the new Act if a person’s interaction with an animal (as defined under the Act) is in accordance with an adopted or prescribed code of practice.

A grant has been provided to the Amateur Fisherman’s Association of the Northern Territory (AFANT) to develop a code of practice to specifically cover recreational fishing activities undertaken in the Territory. Once finalised and adopted under new Animal Protection Regulations (‘the Regulations’), fishing in accordance with the Code will be a complete defence under this legislation.

Development of the new Act has taken place over a number of years and included extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders.

Commencement of the new Act will not take place until the supporting Regulations have been drafted and approved by Government. It is expected that drafting of these Regulations will take between six to nine months, and key stakeholders will have an opportunity to have input. Codes of practice, to be adopted or prescribed under the regulations, will come into operation on the same day as both the Act and the Regulations.

Once in force, these new changes will further enhance the welfare and protection of our animals.

For more information visit the department's website.

An animal welfare officer with an injured dog