Animal Welfare Penalties: What You Need to Know

Animals Animal Cruelty Animal Welfare Pet Care Rescue RSPCA Inspectors Posted May 7, 2021
If I own 150 animals or just 5, how come penalties for breaches of duty of care to these animals are the same?

The Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 is currently being reviewed by the State Government. This is the legislation under which our Inspectors in Queensland operate when investigating cases of animal cruelty and neglect.

For the first time in 20 years, you’re welcome to have your say by voicing your thoughts by May 21, 2021 in a submission to the government here.  

We’d like to share with you a recent case where a large scale commercial enterprise was found guilty of 41 animal welfare charges in court - failure to treat charges, living condition charges and failure to feed charges.

But, currently under the Act, whether there is a breach of Duty of Care for one animal or hundreds like in this situation, the maximum penalties in the legislation are the same. Of course, in the upcoming ACPA Review we will be putting forward the need for penalties to be tiered when it comes to these aggravating situations. This means higher maximum penalties apply to the situations that are more serious due to the number of animals, or perhaps the way in which the animals are used. So aggravated offences attracting higher maximum penalties could include cases where there are prolonged periods of suffering, large scale animal suffering, sexual offences towards animals or exploitation of animals for gain etc. The maximum penalty for Duty of Care offences is currently 1 year imprisonment. We believe that for more serious offences, the maximums should be higher which will also mean higher penalties in court.

In 2019 our Inspectors were called to investigate concerns about animals that had been left unattended at a property.

It was a shocking situation for our Inspectors to encounter.

**Graphic Image Warning: viewer scrolling discretion is advised**

Despite the large amount of acreage, our Inspectors found deceased animals left discarded around at the property at varying levels of decomposition.

It was terrible to see the surviving animals living amongst their bodies.  Water sources for the animals were algae ridden and some animals were underweight, but this was just the start of the welfare concerns that were identified.

This was a case of serious animal neglect on a large scale. 

debris across the field

Alan and Audrey were just two alpacas from over 200 animals that were seized in total. They’ve since gone on to live a relaxing farm life.

This is Lacey. She had been chained up for eight months and was previously confined to a pen. She had no ability behave like a normal dog. When Inspectors arrived, she was panting in the heat and had an upturned container with no water. The little shelter and shade she had wasn’t sufficient. But, we’re happy to say that Lacey has now gone on to find a loving, new home.

When our Inspectors saw Tennessee the pony roaming at the property, she was living in amongst a large amount of rubbish, hazards and dead animals. She also was significantly underweight and didn’t have access to appropriate food, water or shelter. Poor Tennessee was also lame in her left hind leg and veterinary assessments showed she had dental disease and was close to being emaciated. She looks like a totally different pony now and has since been adopted!

I’m sure you’ll agree that rescuing these animals was a mammoth operation for our Inspectors, vets, volunteers and staff. We needed to get these animals the appropriate care they deserved.

We want to ensure that each situation like this has appropriate sentences handed down in court. In this particular case, the owners have been placed on two years’ probation with a lifetime prohibition order on pet ownership, and while they still own some 40 animals, there are strict conditions attached.

To ensure penalties for breaching duty of care are in line with community expectations and the circumstance in which the offending has occurred, you can have your say here on the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 review.

Emma Lagoon
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