The ACT’s Animal Welfare Act 1992 creates a number of criminal offences consisting of acts of cruelty to animals. The act applies to all vertebrates and cephalopods as well as to crustaceans intended for human consumption. The Act also regulates the treatment of farm animals and provides for codes of practice to be made to address aspects of farming such as the transport and slaughter of animals. It seeks to promote the welfare, safety and health of animals and to ensure animals are properly cared for and managed.
What is cruelty to animals?
The act defines cruelty to animals as including:
- Causing pain that is unjustifiable, unnecessary, or unreasonable in the circumstances;
- Beating that causes pain;
- Abusing, terrifying or tormenting;
- Injuring or wounding that is unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable in the circumstances.
A person commits an offence if they commit an act of cruelty on an animal. This offence attracts a maximum penalty of imprisonment for one year or a fine of 100 penalty units, or both.
A person commits aggravated cruelty to animals if they commit an act of cruelty on an animal that results in the animal dying or suffering serious injury and the person intended or was reckless as to causing the death of or serious injury to the animal. This offence attracts a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years, a fine of 200 penalty units, or both.
Duty of care
The act establishes that people who are in charge of animals have a duty of care to the animals. A person commits an offence if they are in charge of an animal and fail to take reasonable steps to provide it with food and water, treatment for illness or injury, shelter or the opportunity to behave in a way that is normal for the animal. A person also commits an offence if they abandon an animal.
These offences carry a maximum penalty of imprisonment for one year or a fine of 100 penalty units, or both.
The act also establishes a number of other offences relating to the mistreatment of animals. These are listed in the below table, together with the section of the act that governs them and the maximum penalty that applies.
|Failing to give confined animal adequate exercise||Section 9||100 penalty units or imprisonment for on year|
|Keeping laying fowl in inappropriate conditions||Section 9A||50 penalty units|
|Keeping pigs in inappropriate accommodation||Section 9B||50 penalty units|
|Removing beak of a fowl||Section 9C||50 penalty units|
|Failing to alleviate pain of animal after injuring the animal||Section 10||10 penalty units|
|Releasing animal from custody or control without reasonable excuse||Section 11||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Administering poison to an animal||Section 12||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Laying poison to kill or injure animal||Section 12||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Give electric shock to an animal (using device not prescribed for that use)||Section 13||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Using a prohibited item||Section 14||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Transporting or containing an animal in a way that causes pain or suffering||Section 15||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Breeding a cat or dog in contravention of breeding standards||Section 15B||50 penalty units|
|Using an animal that is unfit for use||Section 16||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Taking part in an activity where an animal is released to be hunted by a human or another animal||Section 17||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Taking part in or promoting a rodeo||Section 18||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Conducting or facilitating a greyhound race||Section 18A||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Conducting a medical procedure on an animal (person not a vet)||Section 19||Imprisonment for one year or 100 penalty units, or both|
|Perform certain procedures other than for therapeutic purpose (person a vet)||Section 19A||50 penalty units|
Exception – codes of practice
A broad exception to the above offences applies where the conduct in question was done in accordance with an approved code of practice or mandatory code of practice. Under the act, codes of practice may be approved by the Minister. Failure to comply with a mandatory code of practice is an offence, punishable by a maximum fine of 100 penalty units.
Research, teaching or breeding
The act also makes it an offence to use or breed animals for research or teaching without a licence to do so. Licence holders are required to comply with conditions designed to minimise cruelty to animals.
Circuses and travelling zoos
The act makes it an offence to conduct a circus with performing animals or a travelling zoo without a permit.
The act provides for the appointment of inspectors and authorised officers. Inspectors may enter premises for the purpose of administering the act and if they believe it necessary on reasonable grounds, may:
- Examine animals;
- Give assistance to animals;
- Inspect the premises;
- Take copies of documents;
- Take photos or make films;
- Seize animals or things connected with an offence such as cruelty to animals;
- Question persons and require them to give assistance.
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