The animal welfare complaints process
When you phone Biosecurity Queensland or the RSPCA to make an animal welfare complaint in Queensland, they will connect you to the appropriate customer service operator (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries) or complaints coordinator (RSPCA).
If you're unsure whether an animal welfare inspector should investigate a situation, phone anyway and discuss it with the customer service operator or complaints coordinator.
The customer service operator or complaints coordinator will ask for your name and address, and the circumstances of the animal you're phoning about. This information will confirm whether it is an animal welfare complaint, or whether you should contact another agency, such as your local council. Some or all of the following steps may then occur.
Investigating the complaint
- Your complaint is registered and given a priority rating.
- Your complaint may be transferred from the agency you contacted (Biosecurity Queensland, the RSPCA or Queensland Police) to one of the other agencies where appropriate. The 3 agencies handle different complaints, depending on the type, number and location of animals involved.
- The complaint is allocated to an inspector (Biosecurity Queensland or RSPCA). Queensland Police will have their internal procedures to handle your complaint.
- The inspector or officer may contact you to ask for more information about the animals, or directions to help them to find the animals if a visit is necessary.
- The inspector or officer investigates the case. When investigating animal welfare complaints, there are 2 main initial aims. These are to:
- help the animal by addressing its immediate and long-term needs
- determine what they can do to ensure that the person in charge of the animal never gets into the situation again. Education is an important part of an inspector's and officer's job.
What happens next depends on what the inspector or officer finds as a result of the investigation:
- No action - if there is no genuine animal welfare problem, no further action is required. For example, someone may complain about a dog that they think is tied up permanently, but the complainant may not be aware that the animal is being exercised at night.
- Education - if the owner did not know about or understand their responsibilities towards the animal, the inspector will educate the owner. For example, if a closely confined dog is not receiving sufficient exercise but is otherwise healthy, an inspector may advise the owner that they need to provide sufficient exercise under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001.
- Animal welfare direction - the inspector may issue a formal written direction requiring the owner to do certain things to rectify the situation within a specified time. For example, if a dog owner has not complied with a verbal request to appropriately exercise a closely confined dog, an animal welfare direction may be issued. The inspector later returns to ensure the direction has been followed. It is an offence not to comply with an animal welfare direction without reasonable excuse.
- Evidence for prosecution - during the inspection, the inspector may collect material to be used as evidence if they decide that the situation is serious enough to recommend that someone be charged with an offence.
- Removal of animals - sometimes an inspector believes that the only way to ensure an animal will be cared for properly in the short term is to remove it from where it is. However, they do this in only extreme situations.