While animal welfare issues such as the live export of cattle have recently attracted the attention of the government, media and wider community, the poor management and harmful treatment of companion animals is being overlooked.
As the Getting to Zero Summit kicks off this week, which aims to save "surplus" cats and dogs from being killed, Anne Greenaway, principal of Lawyers for Companion Animals, noted the appalling management of companion animals by pounds across Australia.
"In Australia, it's estimated that there are around 250,000 cats and dogs that get killed every year," said Greenaway. "One of the issues that keeps rearing its ugly head is shelter staff who get very distressed by what they see in shelters and quite often speak out. And when they do speak out, they get bullied."
Referring to the high "kill rates" of some animal shelters in Australia, Greenaway noted the increased effort by "no kill" groups to rescue animals from pounds that are likely to be killed.
"Those organisations with a high kill rate refuse to work with rescue organisations. There are people out there who are willing and able to go into such an organisation and be a foster carer, but a lot of these organisations just say no and that is what's troubling," she said.
"[Animal management] needs a Four Corners investigation because there are so many questions that haven't been answered ... There are all these animal welfare organisations that are meant to be helping animals but they're not."
The conduct of animal rescue organisations, as well as Victoria's new breed-specific dangerous dogs legislation, are just some of the many animal welfare and management issues dealt with by Greenaway as one of just a few animal lawyers practising in Australia.
"I've had an interest in animal issues for more than 10 years ... The reason I specifically focus on cats and dogs is that the issues affecting animals are so broad," said Greenaway, who opened her companion animal law practice in June this year following a career in criminal law.
"I'm doing all this pro bono ... I want to be a source of information that will help people make decisions which are in the best interests of their animals."