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New Australian Law Deems Animals As Sentient Beings

In another international move to bestow human rights to animals, the Australian Capital Territory has become the first jurisdiction in Australia to change the legal status of animals from being purely ‘property’ to sentient beings in their own right, according to an ABC News report.

The bill is a mixture of animal welfare and animal rights measures. For example, in addition to changing the legal status of animals, the new law recognizes an animal's right to food, water, shelter, clean living and health care – clearly animal welfare measures.

cartoon of rooster protesting

Pet owners face serious consequences for animals that become sick due to what is determined to be neglect. For example, a pet whose skin becomes infected due to fleas may cost the owner a year of imprisonment.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said it is a bill that makes it easier to support animal rights most people already recognize, according to the ABC News report.

It appears that the law allows for selective enforcement. “Neglect of a cat or dog would likely be considered and treated more seriously than not keeping a fish tank clean,” said a spokeswoman for the Minister.

The new law relates primarily to pets, however there are also requirements to report a ‘mammal’ hit by a car as well as an obligation to alleviate suffering of an injured bird or other non-mammal.

The laws will come into effect in six months.

As with all sentient being legislation, it remains to be seen how the laws will impact hunting in Australia. Stay tuned.

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