The WA Government has backed down on plans to charge wildlife carers an annual licence fee after an angry reaction from parts of the community.
- The WA Government introduced a $250 licence for wildlife carers last year
- The Opposition says the reversal marks another in a series of policy backflips
- Critics say the system should be regulated, but flexibility was needed in licences
Laws came into affect on January 1 requiring any person or organisation caring for injured native animals for more than 72 hours to hold a $250 licence and pay a further $110 renewal fee each year.
But Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has now conceded enforcing the new charges without consultation was a mistake.
“I have to say that was a mistake, proper consultation should have taken place in the first place,” he said.
“It didn’t happen, I’ve insisted that we do consult properly with the community and with those who will be affected, so that conversation is starting now.
“I think the initial fee was too high, absolutely.”
Mr Dawson has ordered his department to waive the charge for the remainder of the year.
Mistreated wombat the face of regulation push
Mr Dawson pointed to the plight of Miniri the wombat, who is the care of Perth Zoo after suffering at the hands of an amateur wildlife carer, as demonstrating the need for the sector to be regulated.
Last month, a Kalgoorlie woman was fined $6000 for animal cruelty after finding the orphaned wombat on the side of road and attempting to care for it for eight months.
Prosecutors said the wombat was malnourished, underweight and had suffered hair loss and severe overgrowth of its toe nails.
Perth Zoo veterinarian Alisa Wallace said she was shocked by the state Miniri was in when she arrived at the zoo.
“She was in such bad condition that she needed five weeks of intensive treatment in our veterinary hospital,” she said.
Mr Dawson said he believed a licencing system would ensure better protection of native animals.
“There are people out there that think they’re doing the right thing, but they’re not,” he said.
“They’re not properly trained and they’re putting animals at risk.
“Having a licensing scheme in place ensures the Government knows who has a licence, can contact them, can provide proper training, can provide updated information.
“Wildlife are not pets — if you find a distressed a wildlife animal on the road, please make sure you bring them to the experts.”
Backdown ‘another policy backflip’
Shadow Environment Minister Steve Thomas said the bungle was another example of a McGowan Government policy backflip.
“I think you can take the line that you’ve listened to the people and changed your policy a few times,” he said.
“But the repetitiveness that we see with the current State Government indicates they’re just not coming up with good policy and not listening in the first place.
“This Government has a bit of a track record of making a decision, not consulting, making a mess of it and then afterwards announcing they’re going to go back and consult about these things.
“They should have had a better look at this earlier on.”
Dr Thomas, who is also a registered veterinarian, said the licence and fee should not be a one-size-fits-all system.
“There are a lot of people who like to find kangaroos on the side of the road and raise joeys,” he said.
“I think there should be a two-tiered system here for those people and then a higher tier with more training involved for the group of people who are looking after endangered and at-risk species.”
The founder of WA animal welfare group Fauna for the Future, Darren Darch, said volunteers who care for animals should not have to pay a fee.
“I agree entirely with the registrations and licensing to keep cowboys out of the industry, but not with the actual charges,” he said.
“My partner and myself spent over $17,000 dollars [in a year] rehabilitating and going and picking wildlife up and relocating them so that on top, the $250, is above and beyond.”
Topics: environment, government-and-politics, animal-welfare, animals, perth-6000, wa
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