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Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Page: 60

Senator COLBECK (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (4:20 PM) —The import prohibition on dangerous dogs was introduced over 10 years ago as a measure to protect the community from dangerous breeds of fighting dogs, as has been discussed here so far this afternoon. The effect of the regulation was to deny the import of four breeds of dangerous dogs in all cases, including for legitimate research needs. The amendment to the regulation empowers the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, or a person authorised by him, to grant permission to import dangerous dogs only for scientific purposes.

The explanatory statement that was issued for the amending regulation advises that `scientific purposes' was defined in the Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes. The code applies to all those activities performed to acquire, develop or demonstrate knowledge or techniques in any scientific discipline, including activities for the purpose of teaching, field trials, environmental studies, research, diagnosis, product testing and the production of biological products. The regulations require the minister to take into account whether the establishment that proposes to use the dog conforms with the code and whether the scientific purpose has been approved by the animal ethics committee established in accordance with the code.

The purpose of the code is to ensure the humane care of animals used for scientific purposes. It encompasses all aspects of the care and use of or interaction with animals for scientific purposes in medicine, biology, agriculture, veterinary and other animal sciences. I have been advised that the code sets out specific requirements concerning the acquisition and care of animals—including, importantly, a requirement that pens, cages and containers be escape proof and maintained in good repair. The amendment regulation maintains the public safety objective of the control, as it would not allow the import of dangerous dogs for companionship or other recreational or commercial breeding purposes. I understand that at this stage no immediate scientific purposes have been identified, which is quite understandable given the absolute prohibition that had existed for over a decade. However, the permission based arrangement is a prudent public policy approach to allow a timely and considered response with respect to legitimate and ethical scientific purposes as they arise.