Cruelty, duty of care and abandoning animals
It is an offence under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 for people in charge of animals to abandon or release them, cause cruelty or breach their duty of care.
The offence of cruelty relates to causing unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable pain to animals. 'Pain' includes distress and mental or physical suffering.
This offence covers actions that the community would perceive as cruel and unacceptable, including:
- the use of electric prodders on horses
- leaving an animal in a hot car
- transporting animals that are not fit to travel
- killing an animal inhumanely.
The maximum penalty for an individual convicted of cruelty to animals is $275,700 or 3 years imprisonment under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. There are also offences for severe animal cruelty under the Criminal Code Act 1899 which have a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment.
Breach of duty of care
Duty of care places a legal obligation on those in charge of animals to provide for an animal's needs in an appropriate way. The Act includes a specific offence for people who fail to meet their duty of care obligations towards the animals in their charge.
The maximum penalty for an individual convicted of a breach of duty of care is $41,355 or 1 year imprisonment.
Learn more about duty of care.
Unreasonable abandonment or release
It is an offence under the Act for people in charge of animals to abandon or release them. This includes going away on holiday or moving house and leaving a pet behind to fend for itself, or deliberately dumping an unwanted animal at the roadside or in the bush.
The maximum penalty for an individual convicted of unreasonable abandonment or release is $41,355 or 1 year imprisonment.
Euthanasia should be considered in times of drought, or other extreme weather events if all other options have been exhausted. Other options include supplementary feeding, agistment and/or selling livestock that are fit to transport.
Animals that are not fit to transport and cannot be treated, must be humanely destroyed. It is unlawful and inhumane to allow animals to starve to death. Both body condition and visual signs of fatigue can assist with the decision-making process to determine if the animal requires euthanasia.
Body condition scores
In order for livestock to be eligible for travel, they must have a body condition score >1 and must not be showing signs of fatigue (e.g. not panting, steady gait, show flight zone response, no signs of trembling, able to stand unassisted)
Animals that have a body condition score of <1 should not be transported without prolonged intensive management and/or veterinary advice.
Note: Animals with a body condition score of 1 or less are unlikely to be endure being transported long distances without appropriate feeding and rest.