I'd like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land.
Welcome to the Getting to Zero workshop - a community approach to achieving zero euthanasia of healthy dogs and cats.
The workshop has as its basis the belief that we all share, that all cats and dogs deserve our efforts to preserve their lives. They are live sentient beings that give love, companionship, and endless entertainment. Pets teach us to care and nurture. They increase our sense of security and they encourage us to exercise. In fact, they save the national health bill more than $4 billion a year.
When I first learnt the number of cats and dogs that are destroyed in NSW every year - around 60,000 - I was appalled. How could a civilised society let this happen? Like you, I wanted to do something.
My response was to prepare My Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill which would have banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet shops and markets and limited classified sales to responsible breeders, pounds, shelters and rescuers. The aim was to stop impulse buys so that fewer cats and dogs would end up in pounds and get destroyed. I also aimed to remove an outlet for cruel puppy farming and backyard breeding.
Neither major party supported my bill, but during debate the Coalition did try to establish a Committee to investigate companion animal welfare. The Coalition is now in Government and last week I gave the House notice of a motion to set up such a committee and investigate ways to improve companion animal welfare.
An inquiry will give people like you, who care about animals and want to get to zero euthanasia a chance to inform politicians about the state of companion animal welfare and to provide solutions. While today is about establishing a community approach to reducing euthanasia rates, there is a role for governments, such as legislation on pet sales and desexing; and ending the ban on pets in apartments, retirement villages and rented homes. The Committee would be able to investigate a broad range of issues.
Parliament will need to debate and vote on setting up this committee and I ask you to lobby your State MP to support it.
Under my leadership the City of Sydney introduced a Companion Animals Policy that promotes responsible pet ownership. We provide leash-free areas in parks. We educate non-pet owners and children about animal behaviour and the wider community about the benefits of pet ownership. We offer discounted dog desexing on the first Tuesday of each month with a free pick up and drop off pet taxi service. Free microchipping is available all year round. We also offer free six week dog obedience training courses for residents. We have gone into partnership with Sutherland Shire Council to provide a pound that has the lowest euthanasia rate in New South Wales, where 25 volunteers walk the dogs every day, sometimes three times a day, and where all the dogs are rehomed
Today's workshop is about solutions and getting on with what we can do to help improve the lives of abandoned animals and save them from senseless destruction. I look forward to seeing the outcomes.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the wonderful and inspiring work you do for our voiceless friends. Your commitment and dedication has saved so many animals from death row. Thank Tammie and Kay Vernon.
Respect and compassion for animals are essential to a humane and just society. I am hopeful that together we can change the fate of cats and dogs in this State and I am happy to be part of this movement.