top of page
Anchor 1

ANIMAL OFFENCES

Cruelty offences against animals in NSW (and other states) are treated very seriously and attract heavy penalties, including imprisonment. Depending on the circumstances of a person’s conduct, offences can be charged under either the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 or the Crimes Act 1900. Subject to the legislation the person is charged, they may either be prosecuted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Animal Welfare League, or NSW Police.

Behaviours and conduct that could attract prosecution for animal cruelty offences, include situations from neglecting an animal in your control and responsibility from their basic needs, to inflicting life-threatening injuries, and causing the death of an animal.

The offence of cruelty to animals is set out in section 5 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW). The maximum penalty for this offence is 250 penalty units in the case of a corporation and 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months, or both, in the case of an individual.

 

Section 5 provides a few ways in which a person may be found to have contravened this section:

  • “A person shall not commit an act of cruelty upon an animal”: section 5(1).

  • “A person in charge of an animal shall not authorise the commission of an act of cruelty upon the animal”: section 5(2).

  • “A person in charge of an animal shall not fail at any time:

(a) to exercise reasonable care, control or supervision of an animal to prevent the commission of an act of cruelty upon the animal;

(b) where pain is being inflicted upon the animal, to take such reasonable steps as are necessary to alleviate the pain, or

(c) where it is necessary for the animal to be provided with veterinary treatment, whether or not over a period of time, to provide it with that treatment”: section 5(3).

 

If a person is prosecuted under section 5 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW), the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt, insofar as they are applicable to the specific provision a person is charged with:

  • That the person committed an act of cruelty upon an animal; or

  • That the person was in charge of an animal, and:

  • That person authorised the commission of an act of cruelty upon an animal; or

  • That person failed to:

    • Exercise reasonable care, control or supervision of the animal to prevent the commission of an act of cruelty;

    • Take reasonable steps, as necessary, to alleviate the pain being inflicted upon the animal or

    • Provide the animal with necessary veterinary treatment when required.

The offence of aggravated cruelty to animals is set out in section 6 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, which states: “a person shall not commit an act of aggravated cruelty upon an animal.”  The offence carries a maximum penalty of 1,000 penalty units for a corporation, or 200 penalty units and/or two years imprisonment for an individual. To convict you of a charge of aggravated cruelty to an animal, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  • That you committed an act of cruelty, or you were the person in charge of the animal failed to take reasonable steps that led to an act of cruelty; and

  • The act of cruelty resulted in:

    • The death, deformity or serious disablement of the animal, or

    • The animal was so severely injured, so diseased or in such a physical condition that it is cruel to keep it alive.

The offence of intentionally causing serious animal cruelty is set out in section 530 of the Crimes Act 1900, which states:

“a person who, with the intention of inflicting severe pain:

(a) tortures, beats or commits any other serious act of cruelty on an animal, and

(b) kills or seriously injures or causes prolonged suffering to the animal,

is guilty of an offence.”

This offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment (although it is two years imprisonment if sentenced in the Local Court). To convict a persons of a charge of inflicting serious animal cruelty, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged offender did the following:

  • Conducted themselves in a way with the intention of inflicting severe pain on an animal;

  • Tortured, beat or committed a serious act of cruelty on that animal; and

  • That act or an omission to act caused to that animal:

    • Death;

    • Serious injury; or

    • Prolonged suffering.

As with any criminal offence, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have a defence available, the prosecution must negate that defence beyond reasonable doubt if the Court is to find you guilty. If you are charged with an animal cruelty offence , please contact KF Lawyers to arrange for a consultation to discuss potential defences and range of sentences that are available in your situation.

bottom of page