RSPCA urgently seeks clarity of animal care under ‘reasonable excuse’ provisions

The RSPCA has urged federal and state governments to explicitly state nationally-consistent permission for people to care for animals based away from their premises, under any COVID-19 movement restrictions.

RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell said the organisation had become increasingly concerned as it appears none of the current regulations include any mention of reaching animals in need of care as being a ‘reasonable excuse’ to be outside the home.

“While professionals caring for animals as part of their work appear to be protected under those provisions – which is a great relief – there are thousands of Australians that remain in limbo,” he said.

“Can horses owners leave home to provide food, water and exercise for their horses? Can wildlife carers travel to collect sick and injured wildlife? Can pet owners go to collect their dog or cat if it should become lost? Can owners take a sick or injured pet to their vet?

“As it stands, there is actually nothing in these regulations that say they can.

“And that’s a serious problem that’s very easily addressed with the inclusion of a few clear and consistent words of instruction,” said Mr Mussell.

Mr Mussell also said the current conflict between regulations places animal carers in a very difficult position.

“Right now, animal owners can face police intervention and very heavy penalties if found to be moving around outside without a ‘reasonable excuse’ justification,” he said.

“Yet, they have a moral and legal obligation to look after the animals they own, and if they don’t meet this obligation, they could be in breach of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals laws.

“At the moment, we are advising people to travel to care for animals as part of their daily ‘exercise’ provisions – but this is a ‘best guess', and we urgently need clarity and clear advice on what it and isn’t acceptable, that’s consistent across all states and territories,”  said Mr Mussell.