RSPCA inquiry report
CPI Strategic director and Field & Game Australia adviser Rick Brown looks at the outcome of an inquiry into the RSPCA in Western Australia.
An inquiry by the Western Australian Upper House into the operations of the RSPCA in that state, initiated by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP), has recommended that the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) be made more accountable for the appointment and performance of RSPCA inspectors.
A committee was established in May last year at the instigation of SFFP member Rick Mazza, who chaired the committee.
The recommendations of the majority report included:
• conferring only on the chief executive officer of DAFWA the power and discretion to appoint all general inspectors under the Animal Welfare Act;
• publishing details of inspectors appointed in the Western Australia Government Gazette and DAFWA maintaining a current list of general inspectors on its website;
• amending the Animal Welfare Act to require DAFWA to consent to an Animal Welfare Act prosecution and to give DAFWA the express power to direct and conduct all prosecutions under the Animal Welfare Act;
• providing that all prosecutions are authorised and overseen by the CEO of DAFWA or a nominated representative;
• clarifying the statutory powers and limitations of RSPCA WA general inspectors conducting prosecutions under the Act on behalf of DAFWA;
• ensuring all direction notices are reviewable by the Minister;
• requiring general inspectors to report their enforcement activities annually to the CEO of DAFWA, and for DAFWA to incorporate this data in its annual report tabled in Parliament, and
• requesting the RSPCA WA publicly confirm that no evidence of live baiting has been discovered in Western Australia despite an extensive coinvestigation by RSPCA WA and Racing and Wagering WA, and that the RSPCA WA'S $10 000 reward for information leading to a conviction of animal cruelty remains unclaimed. The Greens and Labor members of the committee rejected these recommendations. They do not believe there is a need to make the RSPCA and its inspectors more accountable for the privileged position they occupy as a notfor-profit organisation and said there was no evidence to suggest that RSPCA WA had changed its objectives and shifted its focus from animal welfare to animal rights.
This position is at odds with developments in the United Kingdom. The National Police Chiefs' Council, which represents chief constables in the UK, thinks animal welfare prosecutions should be carried out by “a single agency, preferably a statutory body funded by Government” and the recently-appointed CEO of the RSPCA in the UK, in his first interview, said: “We are going to be a lot less political. It doesn't mean we won't stand up for animals. But we are not a political organisation.”
It will be interesting to see if the WA Government accepts the recommendations of the majority report.
Last year, the majority report of another Upper House Committee inquiry recommended the Government introduce a two-year trial of recreational hunting on public land in Western Australia. The Government immediately rejected the recommendation of its own members and, in effect, sided with the Labor members of the Committee.
Labor's environment spokesman, Chris Tallentire, said that enabling recreational hunting on public land would encourage a “gun culture”.
If the Government does adopt the recommendations of the majority report, the spotlight will be on DAFWA to see if it takes seriously the responsibilities with which it is entrusted or whether it simply rubber stamps whatever the RSPCA serves up to it.
Hon. Rick Mazza MLC