The Tasmanian Animal Welfare Act 1993 regulates the treatment of animals under human care or charge, including domestic animals and animals held for commercial purposes. The act defines animal as including all live vertebrate animals except for humans. The act stipulates that humans having control of animals have a duty of care and sets out a number of criminal offences relating to animal cruelty.
Duty of care
Section 6 of the act establishes that a person who has the care or charge of an animal has a duty to take all reasonable measures to ensure the welfare of the animal.
Section 8 makes it an offence to do or omit to do any duty, which causes or is likely to cause unreasonable and unjustifiable pain or suffering to an animal. This offence is punishable by a fine of up to 100 penalty units or imprisonment for up to 12 months. In the case of a body corporate, the offence attracts a penalty of a fine of up to 500 penalty units.
Animal cruelty may consist of:
- Wounding, mutilating, torturing, overriding, overdriving, overworking, beating, abusing, tormenting, or terrifying an animal;
- Overloading or overcrowding an animal;
- Driving, conveying, carrying or packing an animal in a manner that subjects it to unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering;
- Working, riding, driving or using an animal when it is unfit for the purpose;
- Having possession of an animal that is confined and failing to provide it with appropriate food, drink, shelter or exercise;
- Abandoning an animal usually kept in confinement or for domestic purposes;
- Having possession of an animal that is sick or injured and failing to provide veterinary treatment for it;
- Administering a drug or toxic substance except for medical, scientific or other prescribed purposes;
- Using an electronic device on an animal in the course of sport or training for sport;
- Using a spur or similar appliance.
Section 9 makes it an aggravated animal cruelty offence to do or omit to do a duty that results in:
- The death, deformity or serious disablement of an animal;
- Harm that endangers the life of the animal;
- An injury that results in significant longstanding injury to the animal.
This offence is punishable by a fine of up to 200 penalty units or imprisonment for up to 60 months, or both. For a body corporate, the offence attracts a penalty of a fine of up to 1000 penalty units.
It is not a defence to this charge if the animal is euthanased before it dies or before the full extent of the harm to the animal is known.
Baiting and shooting
Section 10 makes it an offence to keep or use an animal to fight, bait, worry, kill or injure another animal or to be baited, killed, worried or injured by another animal. It is also an offence under this section to promote or take part in such an activity or to keep animals for use in such an activity.
This offence carries a maximum penalty of a fine of 200 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months for an individual. For a body corporate, it attracts a fine of up to 100 penalty units.
Use of animals to train other animals
Section 11 makes it an offence to keep, sell or supply, offer for sale or supply or keep for the purpose of sale or supply, an animal to be used to train another animal if the animal is likely to suffer unreasonable or unjustifiable pain or suffering. This offence carries a maximum penalty of a fine of 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months for an individual. For a body corporate it attracts a penalty of up to 500 penalty units.
Section 11A makes it an offence to conduct a rodeo in a way that does not comply with a Code of Practice for rodeos and any prescribed requirements. A person conducting a rodeo must ensure that a vet surgeon is in attendance at all events that involve animals. A person must not organise or take part in a rodeo event that involves riding sheep, calves or goats.
The penalty for contravention of this section is a fine of up to 50 penalty units or imprisonment for up to 12 months for an individual and a fine of up to 250 penalty units for a body corporate.
Section 12 makes it an offence to set, lay or place a leghold trap, glueboard trap or snare unless an exemption has been obtained from the minister. This offence carries a maximum fine of 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months for an individual or a fine of up to 500 penalty units for a body corporate.
Obstruction of officers
The act allows the Minister for Animal Biosecurity and Welfare to appoint persons as officers to administer the act. Officers investigate contraventions of the act, protect and secure the welfare of animals and advise and instruct persons with the care or charge of animals.
It is an offence to obstruct a person in the performance of a duty under the act (section 41) to intimidate, threaten or abuse an officer (section 41A) or to impersonate an officer (section 42).
Reporting animal cruelty
Animal cruelty in Tasmania can be reported to the RSPCA Inspectorate. RSPCA inspectors can investigate complaints about animals in all kinds of situations. However, in order to investigate a complaint, an inspector must have a reasonable belief that an animal cruelty offence has been committed.
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