While nobody disputes the need to ensure the many creatures to be declared sentient under the ACT's draft Animal Welfare Amendment Bill should be treated humanely, serious concerns have emerged over how the government has approached this issue.
The reform, categorised as "massive overreach" by the opposition, would impose heavy fines on people found to have kept dogs in confinement, hit a kangaroo without reporting it, to have transported an animal in such a way as to cause it "injury, pain or stress" and a host of other offences.
Shock collars, such as those used in conjunction with widely used fenceless dog containment systems, could potentially attract fines of up to $16,000.
Petting zoo operators could be fined up to $8,000 if one of their animals became distressed as a result of human contact.
The proposed amendments to the territory's animal welfare laws raise more questions than they answer.
For instance, the Barr government has left itself open to accusations of acting at cross purposes given its ongoing support of controversial kangaroo culling in and around Canberra and the culling of brumbies that cross into the ACT from NSW.
While the intent behind the legislation is admirable, the outcome has already been exposed as having serious flaws. ACT government officials were scrambling on Wednesday to answer media inquiries about the circumstances in which particular elements of the legislation would, and would not, apply.
The likely longer term impact of the legislation, which is founded on the laudable premise that animals are "sentient beings with intrinsic value", on the ACT's admittedly small farming community is also as yet unclear.
An immediate, and obvious, concern is that if this bill is passed it has the potential to turn formerly law abiding pet owners into alleged criminals on the basis of a complaint from an aggrieved neighbour or an anonymous passer-by.
The likely longer-term impact of the legislation on the ACT's admittedly small farming community is, as yet, unclear.
Then, of course, there is the question of enforcement. Numerous reports of dog attacks on other animals and people in this newspaper have raised questions about the ability of ACT government staff to control obviously dangerous dogs. While more rangers have been appointed, they would be insufficient to deal with many of the potential breaches contained within this latest legislation.
While it could be argued that any law, regardless of whether it is enforced or even enforceable, sends a clear message about what is considered desirable behaviour, that is a courageous view.
Howard Gans, writing at the turn of the 19th century, observed unenforceable laws "almost inevitably entail consequences worse than the evil at which they are ostensibly aimed". That is because they diminish respect for all laws as a result of their impotence.
The ACT government has erred in trying to impose legislative and punitive solutions on a range of matters that would potentially have been far better handled through public education and awareness programs.
Animals are mostly unable to defend themselves from violent and cruel behaviour and those who inflict it on them deserve little sympathy and to feel the full weight of the law. But there are other, potentially better ways to improve the lot of those animals we have a duty to respect and care for, that do not present the range of possible problems and enforcement issues these proposed amendments have the potential to introduce.