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The Animal Protection Act 2018 (NT) regulates all behaviours and acts towards animals in the Northern Territory. It replaces the original Animal Welfare Act 1999 (NT) and stipulates modified terms and higher penalties for offenders for animal cruelty in the Northern Territory.
Besides the primary duty as a guide against the ill-treatment of animals, it also provides definitions of other terms relevant for the execution. For example, it defines what an animal is, and the people are referred to as carers or managers under the Northern Territory laws.
If an individual is convicted in a Northern Trritory (NT) 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 NT.
The offence will be disclosed on a criminal history check in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme in the NT.
The Act lists various animal cruelty offences, usually of varying degrees. For example, the punishment for animal cruelty leading to an animal's death is worse than that, causing the Animal a "curable" pain.
Various sections in the Act list what constitutes an offence under the jurisdiction and the penalties for such offences. It is of less importance to the court that the offender did not know of these laws/Acts when charged to court related to dealing with an animal.
Section 5 of the Animal Protection Act 2018 (NT) defines an animal as all living things (especially vertebrates) domesticated or in the wild. It includes animals in the zoo, homes (pets), in the wild and other beasts comprising of;
The legislation expects everyone in charge of animals to provide certain materials/necessities for them. Section 6 of the Act considers it the minimum level of care that a person has to the Animal under their care.
Under the section, any animal owner/manager must ensure animals under their care has;
Any acts contradictory to these listed above will likely constitute an animal cruelty offence unless done in special cases. These special cases may count as a defence before the court on why the accused person carried out the Act.
Any contrary actions to the minimum level of care are regarded as an animal cruelty offence.
The lists of offences that qualify as animal cruelty under the Act include;
Section 23 details the offence of defaulting to provide the minimum level of care for an animal under your control. It is an offence that incurs the maximum penalty of 100 penalty units and 12 months imprisonment.
It is irrelevant in the court that the accused person is unaware of the Act or other regulations regarding animal care in the State.
Section 24 of the Act forbids anyone from being cruel or ill towards animals. It is an offence that carries up to 200 penalty units in fines or two year imprisonment. It is irrelevant to the court whether the accused person acted recklessly (involving in an act they were unsure of to its detriment).
For this section, being ill to an animal means the accused person was involved in the following acts;
And where the accused person engages these acts without license or the approval of a professional veterinarian.
While animal cruelty is no small matter before the court (may lead to imprisonment), section 25 of the of the Animal Protection Act 2018 (NT) also stipulates harsher terms for aggravated forms of animal cruelty. Unlike Animal cruelty, the conditions for aggravated cruelty are clearer and pronounced.
Aggravated animal cruelty incurs a maximum penalty of 500 penalty units in fines or five years imprisonment.
It is an offence of aggravated cruelty if any acts of cruelty lead to severe harm or death to the Animal.
For this section, serious harm means damage to the Animal that is most likely to end in "mercy killing" of the Animal. It also refers to severe or protracted impairment or mental dysfunctions for the Animal.
Besides injuring an animal, it is also an offence if the person responsible does not report the injury. The culprit (cause of the accident) must either report to;
Failure to report an injury that a person causes attracts punishments of 20 penalty units in fines. Section 26 of the Act details this part of the legislation.
It is an offence for a person who has control of an animal to use them for a prohibited activity intentionally. It includes where the person uses the Animal for such Act or is the manager or owner of the place where the Act happens.
Section 32 of the Act stipulates a maximum penalty of 200 penalty units or two years imprisonment for such offences.
A prohibited activity under the Act includes using the Animal
Section 27 of the Animal Protection Act 2018 (NT) lists an offence where a person administers a poison or any other substance that is damaging to an animal's health. The Act stipulates punishments up to 100 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment for such offences.
However, this matter may become a “special case” if the accused person is a veterinarian under prescribed conditions.
Section 28 prohibits the use of traps, spurs, electrical devices and toxins that may kill or cause suffering to an animal.
Section 29 of the Act prohibits a person from setting a metal-jawed trap to capture an animal or subject it to a trap. Section 30 also prohibits using electrical devices to capture or torture an animal either in the wild or otherwise.
The Act allows an animal to be used for scientific purposes only if licensed by the appropriate body.
It is an offence under the Act to use an animal for a scientific purpose other than the requirements of the registration scheme.
The Act stipulates punishments of 100 penalty units in fines or 12 months imprisonment to use animals for scientific purposes other than the stipulations of the scheme.
The Animal Protection Act still expounds on the right of Aboriginal communities to practice traditional hunting, fishing and cultural practices per their traditional customs. It is detailed in the Native Title Act of 1993 (Cth).
Due to the Aboriginal traditional law or custom, it is a defence if the person charged for the animal cruelty is an Aboriginal.
The Code of Practice guides specific actions of officers and committees regarding Animal Protection Regulations. Under the Code of practice, an excuse can be made for any act of cruelty towards animals.
Section 20 of the Act guides the a Code of Practice relating to;
Section 21(2) of the Act makes a defence available for any activities conducted under the Code of practice.
An authorised officer in the NT may enter premises or property under reasonable leads to determine whether an animal is suffering. However, the owner/manager of such premises must get a minimum of 48 hours notice of the intention to search.
If an individual is found guilty of an animal cruelty offence in a Northern Territory (NT) 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 Protection Act 2018 (NT) - https://industry.nt.gov.au/industries/primary-industry/animal-welfare-branch/animal-protection-bill-2018
Animal Protection Act 2018 (NT) (Austlii References) - http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nt/num_act/apa201825o2018236/index.html
Native Title Act of 1993 (Cth) - https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2017C00178
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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