Animal cruelty is prohibited in Queensland under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. The act imposes a legal duty of care on people keeping animals. Complaints about breaches of the act can be investigated by the RSPCA, the Queensland Police or Biosecurity Queensland. The act sets out a number of offences relating to cruelty to animals. However, the act also contains a large number of exemptions, which render many instances of cruelty to animals legal.
Duty of care
Owners and carers of animals in Queensland owe a duty of care to the animals. Duty of care includes the obligation to take reasonable steps to:
- Provide food and water and appropriate living conditions;
- Allow the animal to display normal patterns of behaviour
- Provide treatment for illness and injury;
- Ensure the animal is handled appropriately.
A range of offences relating to animal cruelty exist under the Animal Care and Protection Act.
It is an offence to be cruel to an animal. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of 2000 penalty units or imprisonment for three years. This offence includes:
- beating, abusing, terrifying or tormenting an animal;
- confining or transporting an animal without appropriate preparation such as food and water;
- killing an animal inhumanely;
- injuring or wounding an animal.
Abandonment or release
It is an offence to abandon or release an animal without reasonable excuse. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of 300 penalty units or imprisonment for one year. This offence includes leaving an animal for an unreasonable period.
It is an offence to organise a prohibited event. Prohibited events include bullfights, cockfights or dogfights where animals are encouraged to fight each other; events where animals are released from captivity in order to be hunted by a person or another animal and other events prescribed under regulations where animals are caused pain.
Organising a prohibited event is punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of 300 penalty units or imprisonment for one year. Being present at a prohibited event without a reasonable excuse is punishable by a maximum of a fine of 150 penalty units or imprisonment for one year.
It is an offence to perform the following surgical procedures unless you are a vet who reasonably considers the procedure is in the interests of the animal’s welfare and the procedure is performed in the way prescribed under regulations:
- Cropping a dog’s ear;
- Docking a dog’s tail;
- Debarking operations;
- Removing a cat’s claw;
- Docking the tails of cattle or horses;
It is an offence to feed an animal a harmful or poisonous substance with the intention of harming or injuring the animal. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of 300 penalty units or imprisonment for one year.
Allowing animal to kill or injure another animal
It is an offence to allow an animal you are in control of to injure or kill another animal. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of 300 penalty units or imprisonment for one year.
Serious animal cruelty
Under the Criminal Code Act 1899 it is an offence to kill or cause serious injury or prolonged suffering to an animal with the intention of inflicting severe pain or suffering. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of imprisonment for seven years. However an act that causes the death, serious injury or prolonged suffering of an animal is not unlawful if it is permitted under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 or another law.
A person is not guilty of any animal cruelty offences under the Animal Care and Protection Act if an exemption applies. There is an exemption from an offence if:
- The Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes applies and has been complied with;
- A Code of Practice states how the act may be carried out and the requirements have been applied with. Codes of Practice apply to many industries in which animals are used, such as factory farming and dairy farming;
- The act is done in the exercise of native title rights and interests or under the authority of law to take an animal to exercise Aboriginal tradition or Island custom.
- The act is done to control a feral animal or pest and is done in a way that causes the animal as little pain as possible and complies with regulations.
- The act consists of using a live animal as food for another animal that will only eat the food if it is alive.
- The act consists of the use of a live creature as bait for lawful fishing.
- The act consists of the slaughter of an animal for human food in accordance with a religious faith.
Animal rights groups have criticised the broad exemptions that apply under animal cruelty legislation. In particular, they are critical of the Codes of Practice that permit behaviour that causes suffering to animals that would be illegal under other circumstances. Examples of practices that are allowed in spite of animal cruelty laws because of the broad exemptions under the act include:
- The confinement of pigs in crates too small to turn around in and piglets having their tails and teeth cut off without any pain relief in the process of factory farming;
- ‘Battery hens’ being held in cages too small to spread their wings and male chicks, which are unwanted at egg farms, being gassed to death or ground up alive;
- Exotic animals being confined to small cages for months at a time while travelling with the circus;
- The use of spurs, electric prods and flack straps to provoke animals during rodeos, sometimes resulting in the animals being hurt or killed;
Advocates argue that providing exemptions in respect of factory farms and circuses puts profits ahead of the prevention of cruelty to animals.
The exemptions provided under the act have been defended on the basis that there are valid reasons for using animals for scientific research and in other industries and that Codes of Practice ensure the maintenance of reasonable standards for their treatment.
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