Reuniting Lost Pets legislation paves the way for better animal welfare

Published on 24 February 2022

Victoria’s lost pets to be directly reunited with owners

RSPCA Victoria welcomes the Reuniting Lost Pets Bill that passed in Parliament today and acknowledges the Victorian Labor Government’s work to fulfill this election commitment. The new legislation, allowing lost pets to be directly reunited with owners, is an important step forward for animal welfare in Victoria.

Under section 84D of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (the Act), currently veterinary practices and other animal shelters cannot lawfully reunite stray pets with their owners unless they have established an 84Y agreement with the local council.

Changes to legislation introduced in Parliament in October last year and passed today, mean that all vets and shelters will be able to scan a lost animal’s microchip and immediately contact the owner, avoiding the need to send the animal to the local council pound.

RSPCA Victoria has significant experience operating pounds and shelters and reuniting pets with their owners and supports reunification pathways that see dogs and cats returned to owners directly.  RSPCA Victoria currently has 84Y agreements in place with local councils across Victoria, allowing the animal welfare organisation to perform this service already.

Prior to the 2018 state election, RSPCA Victoria advocated for lost pets to be directly reunited with their owners, and in August 2020, provided feedback on the Reuniting Lost Pets Review.

RSPCA Victoria Policy & Advocacy Manager, Dr Clare Brealey said RSPCA Victoria wholeheartedly supports the Reuniting Lost Pets Bill as a very positive step for animal welfare.

“In the lead up to the 2018 Victorian election we advocated for changes to enable vets and other animal shelters to legally return stray animals directly to their owners without an 84Y agreement, and we’re pleased that the Victorian Government has followed through on this commitment.

“On average around 12,000 registered dogs and 800 registered cats are being needlessly impounded each year.

“The new legislation will have a profound impact on the lives of so many Victorian pets. Enabling vet clinics and animal shelters to directly reunite animals with their owners without the need for an 84Y agreement with local councils will reduce the period of separation, avoid additional transferring of the animal and reduce the load on pounds. This is a great outcome for animal welfare and for pet owners in Victoria,” said Dr Brealey.

CASE STUDY

As the leading animal welfare organisation in the state, RSPCA Victoria takes in over 14,000 animals each year, including many strays. One recent example is the story of ‘B’, a Staffordshire Terrier found as a stray and taken to a vet in the north-eastern suburbs by member of the public in January.

Due to legislative requirements, the vet clinic had to send this poor dog to the RSPCA Epping Animal Welfare Facility. When she arrived, RSPCA staff found that while B’s microchip was up to date her council registration had lapsed. Furthermore, B’s owner’s wife was in hospital, so he was unable to collect her straight away. It would have been much better for B and much easier for her owner if the law had allowed the dog to be collected directly from the vet clinic. Instead, B had to spend a night at the vet and then a night in a shelter. While the RSPCA teams love caring for animals, they also know that the shelter is never the ideal place for an animal. B’s reclaim fees were waived due to the circumstances, but this all-too-common case highlights the inefficiency of the current system and the unnecessary stress involved for animals and their owners along with the increased workload for shelters and pounds.

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