CANBERRA, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Pet owners in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) who fail to treat their animals with compassion could face fines in an Australian-first.
Under laws proposed by the ACT government, the territory would become the first jurisdiction in Australia to recognize animals as "sentient beings."
It would acknowledge that "animals have intrinsic value and deserve to be treated with compassion" and "people have a duty to care for the physical and mental welfare of animals."
Dog owners who keep their pets locked up without exercise or more than 24 consecutive hours will face fines of up to 4000 Australian dollars depending on the dog's age, size and physical condition.
It would also establish a suite of additional offences, including hitting or kicking an animal, abandoning an animal and leaving an animal in a car that is likely to cause injury, stress or death such as in extreme heat.
A person would be legally allowed to break into a car to protect an animal from injury or death in those cases.
"The science tells us that animals are sentient," Chris Steel, the ACT's City Services Minister, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Having an animal in a moving vehicle without the proper restraints would be punishable by a fine of up to 16,000 AUD and a year imprisonment.
Canberra veterinarian David Rizkalla said that he was broadly in favor of the laws but said it was important to clarify exactly what animals would be considered sentient.
"It could get in the way of the economy," he said.
"I think it has to be quite clear if you introduce that sort of thing to large animals, like cows.
"Farmers spend money on the animal if it gets them more money, it's a profit thing, it's not a sentimental value, it's an economic value."