Media reports suggesting Animal Health Australia wants to see working dog use restricted and farmers jailed for cruelty to livestock have been branded as inaccurate by the organisation.
News Limited outlets on the weekend focused on new national welfare standards being developed by AHA for cattle and sheep, and in particular on recommendations that working dogs and electric prods to be limited, and farmers to be fined and possibly even jailed for deliberate cruelty.
The proposed guidelines released by AHA in recent weeks include recommendations that farmers not fire metal pellets at cows during mustering, and not use electric prodders "in an unreasonable manner''.
"A person in charge must have a dog under effective control at all times during the handling of cattle (and) ensure a dog is muzzled when moving calves less than 30 days old that are without cows,'' the guidelines state.
"A person in charge of a dog that habitually bites sheep must muzzle the dog while working sheep.''
Livestock must be given adequate nutrition, water, space and "social contact'' with other animals.
AHA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Mike Bond said inaccurate media reports may have caused confusion and misunderstanding among AHA members, stakeholders and individual producers.
He said AHA recognised that working dogs were indispensable to cattle and sheep farmers, and the proposed guidelines were based on common sense and good practice, which the majority of producers already followed.
“The fact is there are three proposed standards that relate to the acceptable use of dogs for cattle and sheep handling,” Mr Bond said.
“It is well accepted that farm working dogs are indispensible for cattle and sheep farmers.
“It is important to recognise that Australia is a world leader in the development and practice of animal welfare standards as a result of open and transparent development processes such as this public consultation AHA is conducting to actively seek input from all interested parties.
“The draft standards presented, of which there are more than 50 in total for both cattle and sheep, have been coordinated by AHA at the request of our industry and government members and with their direct input, involving more than two years of discussion and consultation in planning and preparation.”
There are about 30 days remaining for cattle and sheep producers to make their submissions to the public consultation on draft standards for cattle and sheep welfare, which is currently being conducted by Animal Health Australia (AHA) on behalf of its industry and government members.
Mr Bond said it was important that all interested individuals and organisations contributed their comments on the draft standards, which will be submitted to the federal and state primary industries ministers’ council for their consideration after the public consultation process closes on 6 May 2013.
The 60-day public consultation period started on 7 March and remains open until 6 May. Submissions can be made via email, fax or post or by completing a specially designed online survey.
All relevant information to enable people to make comment, including a Regulatory Impact Statement, frequently asked questions and contact details are available at www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au. AHA also has a link to the information on its website.
Animal Health Australia is a not-for-profit member-funded company which works to protect and improve animal health within Australia. It does this through its partnerships with industries and governments, which help keep Australia disease free, builds the sustainability of our livestock industries and promotes the humane use of animals for food, companionship, recreation and sport.