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.

Cruelty

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:

  • beating
  • tormenting
  • overworking
  • transporting animals that are not fit to travel
  • killing an animal inhumanely.

The maximum penalty for an individual convicted of cruelty to animals is $266,900 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 $40,035 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 $40,035 or 1 year imprisonment.

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