Animals to be recognised as sentient beings under proposed animal care laws in Australia

A draft of the Victorian Animal Care and Protection Act may make it the first Australian state to explicitly recognise animal sentience.

The long-awaited draft of the Animal Care and Protection Act will be released for public consultation next month, Guardian Australia reported this week, before a final bill is tabled in parliament in 2024.

The new protections are expected to cover more species, including octopuses, squid, cuttlefish, lobsters, crabs and crayfish.

This came six years after the government announced a review of the existing Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, with a view to replace it “with a modern animal welfare act in 2019”. A 2019 parliamentary inquiry also recommended the government modernise the act “as a matter of priority”.

In a statement, a government spokesperson said the current act was outdated. “Work is under way for a new animal care and protection act that would replace Victoria’s current Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 – which is more than 35 years old,” the spokesperson said.

Under a plan released for consultation in 2022, the government said its new laws would explicitly recognise animals are sentient, meaning they are capable of feelings such as such as pain and pleasure.

Guardian Australia understood this would remain in the draft legislation.

If passed, Victorian would become the first state to recognise animal sentience in law. The ACT did so in 2019.