Aim is to create a national welfare standard
Dogs regularly exercised, fed and watered
Fines of up to $12k if proposal becomes law
PET owners could be punished for not walking their dogs, under radical new laws being proposed by the RSPCA.
Under the legislation, they would have to regularly exercise dogs, ensure animals are not kept chained up and give their pets adequate food and water.
If the proposal becomes law, dog and cat owners across Australia would face prosecution, fines of up to $12,000 fines for animal cruelty and magistrates could consider jail in extreme circumstances.
Dr Hugh Wirth, head of RSPCA Victoria, is one of four experts the Federal Department of Agriculture's welfare division has appointed to draft national animal welfare guidelines.
"The draft will tell people what they have to do rather than what they want to do," Dr Wirth said.
"The new standards would be regulatory, therefore a breach of the standards is a breach of the law."
Victorian RSPCA head push for tougher penalties for people who fail to walk their dogs
The proposed new laws are designed to formalise the national code, which states dogs must be walked at least once a day.
Dr Wirth said jail sentences would not be handed out for a first offence, but it would something available for magistrates to consider.
"I would be amazed if a magistrate ordered jail time on the first offence, but, like every other offence under cruelty legislation, jail is an option," Dr Wirth said.
The proposed laws would be designed to help overcome the problems animal inspectors have had penalising bad owners. The working party is designed to create a national standard, but ultimately the laws would be have to be passed by State Governments.
Catherine and Mitch Wells said they would welcome laws to prosecute animal owners who did not exercise their pets.
They said exercising their much-loved "Diva" was part of the deal of owning a dog, and they said all pet owners should be made to regularly walk their animals.
"That's part of our responsibility of having dog," Mrs Well said.
The Newcastle couple gives their two-year-old English staffy at least 30 minutes "roaming time" each day at the local dog beach, and they say she thrives on it.
"Seeing her happy makes me happy," Mrs Wells said.
Mrs Wells said it distressed her to see larger dogs cooped up in yards, and barely ever let out to exercise.
"It's not fair to the dog," she said.
A spokesman for the federal Department of Agriculture said the working group was one of six set up to look at animal welfare.
"One of the goals of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy is to develop national standards and guidelines for the care of different kinds of animals," the spokesman said.
"The states and territories are ultimately responsible for legislating for animal welfare, not the Commonwealth."
The draft is still in its early stages.
Walk the dog or face time behind bars | News.com.au