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Animal Cruelty Laws in NSW

In NSW, laws have been implemented to protect animals from mistreatment and cruelty and aim to prevent abuse, neglect and harm to animals.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1979) is the main legislation that governs animal cruelty laws in NSW. This law provides a framework for the prevention of cruelty and sets out the penalties for those who commit offences. The act defines animal cruelty as ‘any act or omission that causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or harm to an animal’. This includes physical abuse such as beating, kicking or mutilating, as well as neglect or not acting when you should, such as failing to provide adequate food, water shelter or veterinary care.

In order to prove the elements of the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  1. Committed an act of cruelty against an animal; or 
  2. That you were in charge of an animal, and: either authorised the commission of an act of cruelty upon an animal or failed to
    1. Exercise reasonable care, control or supervision of the animal to prevent the commission of an act of cruelty;
    2. Take reasonable steps, as necessary, to alleviate the pain being inflicted upon the animal; or
    3. Provide the animal with necessary veterinary treatment when required.

Protection of Domestic Animals

The Companion Animals Act (1998) is another important law that protects domestic animals in NSW, such as dogs and cats. This law requires that all dogs and cats be registered with the local council and be microchipped. It also provides regulations for the sale of pets and establishes standards for animal breeding.

Enforcement of Animal Cruelty Laws

The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is responsible for enforcing animal cruelty laws in NSW. They investigate reports of cruelty towards animals and work with law enforcement to prosecute offenders. In addition to the RSPCA, NSW Police also have the authority to enforce laws and can work with the RSPCA to investigate and prosecute offenders.

Penalties for Animal Cruelty

NSW has implemented some of the toughest punishments for animal cruelty violations in the country. 2021 amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides for significant increases in the maximum penalties for animal cruelty, including:

  1. Committing an act of cruelty: Maximum penalty of $44,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment for individuals and $220,000 for corporations.
  2. Committing an act of aggravated cruelty: Maximum penalty of $110,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment for individuals and $550,000 for corporations.
  3. Failure to provide proper and sufficient food, drink or shelter: Maximum penalty of $16,500 and/or 6 months imprisonment for individuals and $82,500 for corporations.
  4. Failure to comply with a prohibition order and for failure to produce an animal as mandated by court order: Maximum penalty of $5,500 and/or 6 months imprisonment.

Aside from fines and gaol, other possible sentences include intensive corrections orders, suspended sentences, community corrections orders, good behaviour bonds and conditional release orders.

How can BSM Help?

If you have been charged with an animal related offence, it is important to seek legal advice. The experienced Criminal Lawyers at Brander Smith McKnight can help you build a strong defence and protect your rights. 

Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.

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