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The Australian Capital Territory encourages the welfare of animals (domestic/in the wild) and mandates animal owners to their duty to care for the animals. The Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT) contains the ACT legislation towards animal owners or managers in the jurisdiction.
The Act further provides guidelines about penalties for offenders in animal cruelty, enforcement of the laws and stipulates the conducts of officials. It also provides the codes of practice to guide farmers and farm animals for work or slaughter.
If an individual is convicted in an ACT court for an animal cruelty offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national police history check in the ACT.
The offence will be disclosed on a criminal history check in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme in the ACT.
Section 7 of the Act prohibits all forms of cruelty to animals in any form. It is an offence that incurs the maximum penalty of 200 penalty units or two years imprisonment, or both, depending on the type of the offence.
The Act defines cruelty to animals where;
The person causes pain to the animal, especially without reason or license from any committer. It may be a defence if the pain was for medical aid or benefit and was licensed by an official.
The crime of animal cruelty is made worse if the Act results in the death or severe injury of the animal. It is immaterial if the person was reckless or intentional as to the matter resulting in the animal's death.
The crime for an aggravated matter for animal cruelty is a 300 penalty units in fines or imprisonment for three years. For some cases, the court may even issue both depending on the severity of the matter.
It is an aggravated matter if the Act causes serious animal injury or permanent damage to their mental health. Permanent injury is usually longstanding and affects the animal for a long time.
The Act clearly states the duties and responsibilities of those in charge of animals. It states the various positions or reasonable steps the law expects from such people. Ignorance or recklessness for such laws is not a defence for this section.
A person found guilty of failing their duty of Care can incur penalties as much as;
Duty of Care towards an animal includes;
It is an offence to abandon an animal that you care/provide consent for. In court, it is immaterial if the Act was a reckless action from the person. Under section 6G of the Act, this offence carries a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units or 1-year imprisonment or both.
It is an offence to injure an animal and take no step as to offer treatments and solutions to the injury. The Act prescribes up to 100 penalty units or one year or both for such offences. A reasonable means to avoid such a charge will be to contact a relevant person or engage a veterinary doctor.
The crime of not telling a relevant person about an injury carries a punishment of 20 penalty units.
It is an offence to indiscriminately release an animal from captivity under another person’s control. It also includes cases where the animal may be injured or killed, and the person was reckless about the release.
The Act stipulates the punishments of 100 penalty units and one-year imprisonment for such offences, or both.
It is an offence to administer a poisonous or toxic substance to a domestic animal. The Act stipulates penalties reaching 100 penalty units in fines and 1-year imprisonment or both for such offences. However, it is a defence for this section if the person has a reasonable excuse for such action, especially for medical purposes.
It is also an offence to lay poisons or traps with the hope of injuring another domestic animal. It does not matter to the court that the accused person claims the Act was reckless or deliberate. It may also be an aggravated matter that the Poison causes the animal's death.
The Act stipulates punishments up to 100 penalty units and 1-year imprisonment for such offenders, or both.
It is a serious offence to apply an electrical device in a manner that causes pain or suffering to the animal. Section 13 of the Act prescribes 100 penalty units in fines and a one-year imprisonment term.
Certain items are generally prohibited under the regulations and laws relating to animals. The prohibited items are defined by the relevant ethics committee and are updated within respectable periods.
Anyone found guilty of illegally possessing and using any of these "prohibited items" will incur up to; 100 penalty units or 1-year imprisonment.
While certain animals are built and meant for transport, it is an offence for a person to transport any animal in a manner that will cause it pain. It may also constitute an aggravated charge that the animal dies due to the action.
It is an offence with maximum punishment of 100 penalty units or a 1-year imprisonment term. For this section, the term transport refers to;
It is an offence to be at or take part in the violent animal activity; it is an offence that incurs harsh punishments of;
It is also an offence to be at a place of violent activity, especially if a person reasonably knows that a violent activity is holding. The offence incurs a penalty of 100 penalty units, 1-year imprisonment or both, depending on the severity of the offence.
Under section 18 of the Act, it is an offence to partake in a Rodeo or any derogatory use of animals for fun. According to S18 of the Act, a person guilty of this offence will get punishments up to 100 penalty units in fines or 1-year imprisonment.
A rodeo is a public show for animals; it is usually illegal unless with a permit.
It is an offence for a person who is not a professional veterinary to handle an animal in medical matters. It is an offence that carries the maximum punishment of 100 penalty units, 1-year imprisonment.
Even as a veterinary surgeon, there are specific Codes and Conduct that you must follow. The court can also slam such offenders with 50 penalty units in fines. The prohibited acts for veterinarians unless for special medical purposes include;
The Act allows for certain conditions where special acts (that would usually pass as cruelty). However, these actions must fall within the Code of Practice listed in Part 3 and section 21 of the Act.
The code of practice covers all matters, including;
Depending on the circumstances, a minister may approve or disallow a code of practice relating to animal welfare.
It is an offence that a person is reckless about a code of practice conditions. Failure to comply with the requirements incurs punishments of 100 penalty units.
If an individual is found guilty of an animal cruelty offence in an ACT court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their criminal record check.
Individuals can obtain a criminal background check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.
Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT) - https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/a/1992-45/
Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT) (Austlii References) - http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/act/consol_act/awa1992128/
RSPCA (What are the Penalties for Animal Cruelty Offences?) - https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-penalties-for-animal-cruelty-offences/
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