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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Animal Cruelty Offences Animal Cruelty Offences and Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    Animal Cruelty Offences and Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    The state of NSW not only places value on the lives of individuals but also on its animals. As such, NSW has special legislations that help to eliminate or prevent animal cruelty.

    Breaking any of these laws can attract a series of penalties, from fines up to imprisonment terms. Animal cruelty offences in NSW are outlined in the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW).

    In this write-up, we will be delving into the different animal cruelty offences in NSW and the penalties that follow. However, we will first need to define some key terms regarding animal cruelty.

    If an individual is convicted in a New South Wales (NSW) court for an animal cruelty offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national police history check in NSW.

    The offence will be disclosed on a criminal history check in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme in NSW.

    Legal definition of an Animal in NSW

    According to Section 4 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW), an animal refers to any member of the vertebrate species, including birds, fishes, amphibians, mammals, reptiles and crustaceans. However, the crustacean has to be in a restaurant, or a place meant for preparing food.

    Animal Trade

    Animal trade has to do with keeping or using an animal for a certain profession or business.

    Bull fight

    According to Section 4 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW), a bullfight involves any activity where a person carries out a cruel act towards a bull either for spectacle or exhibition.

    This cruel act includes teasing a bull so it can fight back, consequently leading to its pain, injury or suffering.

    Confine

    Section 4 of the Prevention to Animals Cruelty Act 1979 defines confinement as placing an animal in captivity through the use of a cage or any other means.

    The other means can involve giving the animal a defect, so they cannot move freely or using a device to prevent the animal's freedom. It could also include using a rope, cord or chain to restrict the animal.

    Domestic Animal

    A domestic animal refers to an animal that a person has been able to tame to carry out specific duties. However, there is a chance for the animal not to be completely tamed.

    Person in Charge

    The person in charge of an animal refers to the owner of an animal or an individual saddled with the responsibility of caring, controlling or supervising an animal that belongs to someone else.

    Actions that Constitute Animal Cruelty in NSW

    Some actions constitute animal cruelty. However, a person can also commit animal cruelty through omission. For a person to be guilty of animal cruelty, their actions must be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjustifiable.

    Some of the actions that constitute animal cruelty include beating, kicking, killing or injuring an animal. It also includes pinioning, mutilating, abusing, tormenting, torturing, terrifying and infuriating an animal.

    Furthermore, animal cruelty can also be the act of overloading or overworking an animal. It also has to do with exposing an animal to excessive heat or cold.

    The Offence of Cruelty to Animals in NSW

    Section 5 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW), the law states that it is a violation for any individual to commit an act of cruelty towards an animal.

    This legislation also clarifies that any person in charge of an animal must perform their duties with a reasonable amount of care. This rule ensures that they do not commit the act of animal cruelty.

    Also, in a case where the animal is in any pain or discomfort, the person in charge of the animal must take necessary actions to alleviate the pain. Such action may involve providing the animal with veterinary treatment over a while.

    Anyone who breaks these laws and commits the act of animal cruelty may face a maximum penalty of 400 penalty units or 1 year imprisonment, or both. While for a corporation, it may face a maximum of 2000 penalty units.

    Aggravated Cruelty to Animals in NSW

    The act of animal cruelty can become aggravated if it leads to serious injuries or the animal's death. There can also be a case of aggravated cruelty if a person's actions cause the animal's deformity.

    Furthermore, allowing an animal to become so diseased to the point where it may hardly survive is an act of aggravated cruelty.

    According to Section 6 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW), any individual who commits the crime of aggravated animal cruelty faces a maximum of 1000 penalty units or two years imprisonment, or both. For a corporate body, the maximum penalty is 5000 penalty units.

    In addition, the court can still pronounce a person guilty of animal cruelty if they do not find them guilty of aggravated animal cruelty. Consequently, this will result in the court giving penalties that pertain to animal cruelty.

    Wrong Carriage and Conveyance of Animals

    Section 7 of the Act covers the carriage and conveyance of animals. In this legislation, it is illegal for any individual in charge of an animal to transport the animal in a manner that unjustifiably causes a great amount of pain.

    Being guilty of this offence attracts a maximum of 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment, or both. For a corporate body, the maximum punishment is 250 penalty units.

    Also, the law establishes that a person in charge of an animal may be guilty of a crime if they convey a horse using a multideck vehicle. The maximum punishment for this offence is 50 penalty units or six months of imprisonment, and in some situations, a person may receive both penalties. While for an organisation, the maximum penalty is 250 penalty units.

    Furthermore, it is a crime for any individual to convey a dog on the open back of a moving vehicle. If a person were to transport a dog using this means, they would have to restrain the dog or create an enclosure to keep it from falling off the vehicle.

    This legislation does not refer to dogs people use for working livestock. Transporting a dog on the open back of a moving vehicle carries a maximum penalty of 50 penalty units or six months of imprisonment and both in special cases.

    Failing to Provide Animals with Food Water and Shelter

    Under Section 8 of the Act, the law specifies that it is illegal for a person in charge of an animal to unjustifiably deprive the animal of water, food or shelter.

    If an individual commits this crime, they may face a maximum of 150 penalty units or six months imprisonment or both. While for an organisation, the maximum punishment would be 750 penalty units.

    Regarding this offence, the prosecution may have to prove that the accused failed to provide the animal with clean and sufficient water, food and shelter within 24 hours.

    Not Giving Room for an Animal to Adequately Exercise When Confined

    Section 9 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW) states that no individual should confine an animal to a position without providing the animal with sufficient exercise. However, this does not apply to stock animals or animal species usually kept in captivity through a cage.

    Confining an animal without providing adequate exercise attracts some penalties. For an individual, the maximum punishment is 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment or both penalties. If an organisation is guilty of this offence, it may face a maximum of 250 penalty units.

    For the court to give these punishments, the prosecution must provide some evidence. First, the prosecution will have to convince the court that the accused failed to release the animal from its confinement within the space of 24 hours.

    Additionally, it is a crime for a person to confine an animal in a cage of which the height, length or breadth makes it impossible for adequate exercise. This offence attracts a maximum of 50 units or six months imprisonment or both for an individual. For a corporate body, it may face a maximum of 250 penalty units.

    In a legal proceeding, the accused can raise a defence regarding any of these offences. For example, the defendant could claim that they confined the animal to convey or publicly exhibit it.

    They could also claim that they restricted the animal because they were using it for a public competition. However, the accused would have to prove to the court that the constraint they imposed on the animal did not inflict unnecessary pain. Also, they would need to show that, and they did not restrict the animal for more than 24 hours.

    Tethering of Animals

    It is an offence for an individual in charge of an animal to tie or allow another person to restrain their animal for a very long time using an unreasonably heavy or short tether.

    This law is present in Section 10 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW). Breaking this law carries the maximum punishment of 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment or both. While for a corporate body, the maximum punishment is 250 penalty units.

    Also, the law specifies that no individual should tether a sow in a piggery. Committing the crime of tethering a sow in a piggery attracts the maximum punishment of 50 penalty units or six months incarceration, or both. If a corporate body commits the crime of tethering a sow in a piggery, it may face a maximum of 250 penalty units.

    Furthermore, it is illegal to restrict a bird using a tether. If an individual commits this crime, they may get a maximum of 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment and sometimes both. If a corporate body is an offender, it may face a maximum of 250 penalty units.

    In a proceeding for tethering a bird, the defendant can claim that the bird was a raptor and the tether was a jess for keeping the bird close.

    Carrying Out Prohibited Procedures

    Section 12 of the Act states various procedures that a person must not perform on an animal. These animals include a horse, ox, bull, calf, heifer, dog or bullock. Also, the procedures involve cropping of ears or docking the tail of an animal.

    It also includes removing the claws or clipping the teeth of an animal. Other prohibited procedures involve performing a clitoridectomy on a greyhound or branding an animal's face with a hot iron. It could also mean operating on a dog to prevent it from barking.

    However, it is legal for a veterinary practitioner to carry out some of these prohibited procedures if it is for the animal's welfare. Also, it is not an offence to dock the tail of a calf that is less than six months old.

    Carrying out a banned procedure on an animal attracts a maximum of 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment or both.

    Riding a Certain Animal

    Section 13 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW) establishes that people are not to ride, drive, carry or convey an unfit animal for any of these purposes.

    If a person commits this crime, they may face a maximum of 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment or both. For an organisation, it may face a maximum of 250 penalty units.

    Poisoning an Animal

    Under Section 15 of the Act, it is an offence for an individual to use a poisonous substance in killing or injuring a domestic animal. The law also states that no person should possess a toxic substance to injure or kill a domestic animal.

    If the court finds any person guilty of an offence, they may face a maximum of 200 penalty units ($22,000) or two years imprisonment or both. For a corporation it may receive a maximum punishment of 1000 penalty units.

    Using an Electrical Device on an Animal

    According to Section 16 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW), it is illegal for a person to use, possess or sell an electrical device meant for causing pain to an animal.

    The maximum punishment for violating this law is 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment and, in some cases, both. If the court finds an organisation guilty of this offence, it may get a maximum of 250 penalty units.

    Animal Baiting and Fighting

    Under Section 18 of the Prevention to Animals cruelty Act 1979 (NSW), it is an offence for a person to manage space or run a business of conducting bullfights or animal fights.

    The maximum penalty for this crime is 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment for an individual. While for a corporate body, the punishment is 250 penalty units.

    The law also establishes that it is an offence for anybody to instigate a fight between two or more animals, regardless of if they are of the same species or not.

    Furthermore, this legislation states that it is a crime for anyone to advertise or promote such a fight. If the court finds an individual guilty of this offence, they may face a maximum of 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment. For a corporation, the maximum sentence would be 250 penalty units.

    Selling a Severely Injured Animal

    Section 22 of the Act outlines that no person should sell or purchase an animal that is seriously injured or diseased.

    For an individual, breaking this law carries a maximum penalty of 50 penalty units or six months imprisonment or both. While for a corporation, the maximum penalty would be 250 penalty units.

    Setting a Prescribed Kind of Trap

    It is illegal under Section 23 of the Act for anyone to set a prescribed type of trap for an animal in a prescribed part of NSW.

    If the court finds an individual guilty of this offence, they may get a maximum of 50 penalty units ($550) or six months imprisonment or both. If the court pronounces a corporation guilty, they may face a maximum of 250 penalty units.

    Bottom Line

    There are several offences as regards animal cruelty. Understanding each of these offences can help prevent an individual from committing a crime. But if a person breaks any of the laws on animal cruelty, they can always seek legal advice concerning the next line of action. Consequently, this could help to get the best possible outcome.

    Will a Animal Cruelty Offence in New South Wales (NSW) show up on a national criminal record check?

    If an individual is found guilty of an animal cruelty offence in a New South Wales 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.

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