There is no national legislation around animal welfare but each state and territory has animal welfare laws. In South Australia, the Animal Welfare Act 1985 regulates the treatment of animals and their use by humans and sets out offences relating to animal cruelty. The act defines an animal as any vertebrate animal except humans and fish.
The act establishes an Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which advises the minister for Environment and Natural Resources on animal welfare issues. It also empowers the minister to appoint Inspectors, who investigate alleged animal cruelty and enforce the act’s provisions. The bulk of animal law enforcement in South Australia is done by the RSPCA.
Animal cruelty offences
Under the act, there is an aggravated offence and a lesser offence of ill-treating an animal.
If a person ill-treats an animal and the ill-treatment causes death or serious harm to the animal, intending or being reckless to the death or serious harm to the animal, the person is guilty of an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of $50,000 or four years imprisonment.
If a person ill-treats an animal, the person is guilty of an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of $20,000 or imprisonment for two years.
What is ill-treatment?
A person ill-treats an animal if they:
- intentionally, unreasonably or recklessly cause the animal unnecessary harm;
- are the owner of the animal and fail to provide it with adequate food, water, living conditions or exercise; abandon or neglect the animal; or fail to take steps to mitigate harm suffered by the animal.
- Fail to take steps to mitigate harm they have caused to an animal;
- Cause the animal to be killer or injured by another animal;
- Kill the animal in a way that causes it unnecessary pain or that is unnecessarily slow;
- Carries out a medical procedure contrary to the regulations;
- Ill-treats the animal in any other way prescribed by the regulations.
The following are prohibited activities:
- Organised animal fights;
- Live baiting;
- Releasing an animal from captivity so that it can then be hunted and killed;
- Selling or supplying an animal for use in any of the above activities;
- Keeping or preparing an animal for use in any other above activities.
Taking part in a prohibited activity
Under Section 14, it is an offence to take part in a prohibited activity. This includes organising, promoting, or allowing the activity to occur on your premises as well as supplying animals for use in the activity. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of $50,000 fine or imprisonment for four years.
Being present at a prohibited activity
Under Section 14 it is also an offence to be present at a prohibited activity. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of $20,000 fine or imprisonment for two years.
Powers of inspectors
The minister can appoint persons as inspectors, to administer the act. Inspectors may
- use reasonable force to enter and search premises or a vehicle;
- take photo, video or other recordings;
- seize and retain an animal or a thing involved in an offence against the act;
- require a person suspected of committing an offence against the act to provide their name, address and identification;
- require a person to answer questions or produce documents;
insofar as these actions are necessary to prevent serious harm to an animal.
Under Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Regulations 2012, to be appointed as an inspector, a person must have completed a course of training provided by the minister or by the RSPCA or another approved agency.
Teaching and research involving animals
Section 16 of the act prohibits the use of animals in the teaching of science or in research without a licence to do so. A licence can be obtained by application to the minster, if the application satisfies the minster that the applicant has appropriate premises and facilities for the handling of animals. The minister can impose conditions on a licence and can revoke or suspend a license if the holder commits an offence against the act or fails to abide by the conditions of the licence.
If you require legal advice or representation in relation to an animal cruelty matter or any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.