As reported by CNN, Dog owners could be fined up to AU$4,000 if they don’t walk their pets at least once a day under new legislation recognizing animals as sentient beings in the Australian Capital Territory.

In an Australian first, animals have now been recognised as sentient beings in law, with the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly today.

“These new laws will make the ACT a national leader in animal welfare, and reflects a zero tolerance approach to animal cruelty,” Minister for City Services Chris Steel said.

“Modern animal welfare is about considering how an animal is coping both mentally and physically with the conditions in which it lives.

“For the first time under law we are recognising the science, that animals are sentient, and they feel emotion and pain.

“These animal welfare laws reflect the values of the Canberra community on how we should manage and care for our domestic animals, livestock and wildlife.

“This legislation will enable better enforcement of laws to protect animals.

“People who do not properly care for their animals, such as failing to provide a dog with water or shelter, face new on the spot fines.

“Fines for these offences can now be easily issued by officers as part of the new escalating enforcement framework to deter further acts of cruelty from happening,” Minister Steel said.

Under the new laws, if serious animal welfare abuses are committed, the Animal Welfare Authority can impose an interim ownership ban of up to six months. The Authority can also seize, retain, sell or rehome an animal where appropriate. The maximum penalties for serious cruelty offences have also been increased with up to three years jail time for aggravated cruelty.

In addition, the Bill sets out an accreditation framework for assistance animals for the first time in the ACT, dealing with the recognition and right of access of assistance or service animals to public places and premises. This includes assistance animals in training.

Pet businesses will also be required to be licenced for the first time in the ACT, including pet shops and boarding kennels, to provide increased protections for animals in their care.