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  • Animal Cruelty Offences and Penalties in Queensland (QLD)

    Queensland has legislation for the welfare and treatment of animals, whether domestic or wild.

    According to the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld), a person can be guilty of various offences relating to animals.

    The Act also includes the legal duties of all animal owners and those who manage or care for animals as a primary job. The RSPCA, Queensland Police, or even Biosecurity Queensland are empowered to make any valuable and lawful investigations regarding the welfare of animals in Queensland.

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

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

    Penalties for Animal Cruelty offences in Queensland

    Animal cruelty is considered a serious offence in Queensland, especially where the animal is subjected to intentional and extreme torture, causing its death. For severe cases, the Magistrate/Justice can issue penalties of imprisonment for offenders.

    There are various ways a person/body can incur official penalties for animal cruelty.

    In exceptional cases, the Court may decide when the acts become "cruel" to an animal.

    What the legislation considers Animal Cruelty?

    Section 18 of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld) considers an act of cruelty towards an animal where the accused caused any form of physical or mental pain. The acts regarded as cruel to animals are vast and may even be decided by the court.

    However, the general forms of animal cruelty include where the offender commits any of these acts;

    • Leaving an animal in a sealed car or room
    • Beating an animal with an inappropriate instrument
    • Tormenting the animal in whatever form
    • Overworking the animal
    • Knowingly feeding it a toxic meal
    • Keeping the animal in a fumigated area or space
    • Injecting the animal for any non-medical or approved purpose
    • Moving or transporting animals that are unfit to travel
    • Loading animals unfit for carrying such amounts of load
    • Killing an animal through a non-approved means
    • Any other acts that would reasonably count as cruelty to a living thing (animal)

    The prescribed punishment for an offender in the case of animal cruelty is a penalty of 2000 penalty units in fines or three years imprisonment term to the offender.

    The Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) also lists punishments for the case of a severe crime against an animal; Where the crimes are severe, the Act lists penalties that can go up to 7 years imprisonment.


    1. Breach of Duty of Care

    Many animals are solely dependent on their owners/managers for their care and survival. Generally, Queensland mandates every animal owner/manager to care for the animal they protect or manage.

    Anyone who breaches a primary care or duty to an animal under their control is guilty of an offence under Section 17 of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld).

    The Breach of Duty Care is an offence that carries the maximum penalty of 300 penalty units or up to 1 year imprisonment.

    For this case, an inspector or member of the ethics committee can assert that a person is guilty of breaching a duty of care to animals. Some forms of this offence include where the accused fails to;

    • Provide basic supplies like food, clothing and shelter, or
    • Provides these amenities in a manner that is inappropriate with the animal welfare
    • Provide treatments, drugs or remedies to any illness or ailments of the animal
    • Shows any other pattern of behaviour that is outside the normal.

    It also includes cases where an animal owner/legal carer is reckless to the transportation or mode of confinement of the animal.


    When considering the Act of duty of care for an animal, other factors included are;

    • The species of the animal,
    • The environment where the animal was engaged
    • The circumstances of the Use
    • Whether the person with legal authority took the necessary care or step.

    1. Unreasonable Abandonment or Release of animal in QLD

    The law prohibits a person from releasing an animal under their care unless there is good reason. For this case, removing an animal cuts it from its basic survival amenities and leaves it in greater danger from the wild.

    The only defence to this offence is whether the authority or reasonable cause sanctioned such release. Section 19 of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld) that lists this offence includes a fine of 300 penalty units in fines or imprisonment for one year.


    1. Releasing animals not under your care in QLD

    Without a reasonable cause, it is an offence to release an animal, not under your care or custody. Subsection 2 of section 19 of the Act makes it a crime to release an animal indiscriminately.

    Following the Act, this offence carries a maximum penalty of;

    • 300 penalty units in fines, or
    • Imprisonment term for 1 year.

    1. Prohibited events

    Section 21 of the Act lists certain events contradictory to the Animal Welfare Rights or causing harm to the animals involved. While some prohibited acts are common and explicit, others can only be assessed by good reason depending on the place, the circumstance and the time.

    It is an offence to organise a prohibited event or contribute towards such by;

    • Permitting the event,
    • Supplying any animal to be used in the event,
    • Supplying premises/properties for the prohibited event.

    If the court finds you guilty of contributing to such an event in any form, it is an offence, and it carries the maximum penalty of 300 penalty units in fines or one-year imprisonment.

    Some examples of prohibited events include;

    • Bullfights, Cockfights, Dogfights, or any other illegal fight competitions held for public entertainment
    • An event where a bull chases people/things around after being prodded or provoked
    • Events that involve animals to be released from captivity to be hunted by a person or other animals
    • Events where an animal is used as live baits or training for other fiercer animals
    • Any other events prescribed by regulations guiding animal welfare.

    1. Being present at a prohibited event

    Section 22 makes it unlawful for a person to be at a prohibited event without lawful excuse. It also includes cases where the person shows any attempt or action that equates to being prohibited before, during or after the event.

    The court imposes a maximum penalty of 150 penalty units or imprisonment for one year for this offence.


    1. Offence of performing specific surgical procedures

    Some offences can equate to an act of animal cruelty if they are not in the medical interests of the animal. Only an approved veterinary surgeon can perform these operations for most of these cases. Part 4 of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld) lists certain offences that classify as regulated surgical procedures. For example, it is an offence for a person other than a veterinary surgeon to crop a dog’s ear. It is an offence that incurs the maximum penalty of 100 penalty units.

    Also, the surgeon must not crop the Dog's ear except where it considers such an Act in the reasonable interest of the dog/animal. It is an offence that carries 100 penalty units in fines.

    It is also an offence to Dock a dog's tail unless it is in a manner prescribed by regulations, and it has a reasonable excuse. Section 24 prescribes punishments of 100 penalty units for anyone who indiscriminately carries out this Act.


    Debarking operations

    Anyone apart from a veterinary surgeon who performs an operation that causes the Dog to;

    • Be unable to bark,
    • Reduce the volume of its barking (debarking operation)

    Is guilty of an offence that incurs 300 penalty units in fines or an imprisonment term for 1 year.


    Removal of Cat's claw

    It is illegal for a person other than a veterinary surgeon to remove a cat's claw. Section 26 of the Act punishes such an Act of cruelty with 300 penalty units in fines or imprisonment for one year.


    Docking the Tail of a Cattle or Horse

    Unless a licensed veterinarian should dock the tail of a cattle or horse, no one, also, the veterinarian should only do this where they consider it of great benefit to the animal.

    Section 27 considers this offence a severe one that incurs a maximum penalty of 300 units or an imprisonment term for 1 year.

    It is also an offence to supply, use, keep;

    • Dogs that are debarked, or
    • Horses with their tail docked
    • Cat with claws removed.

    Releasing an animal for injury or killing by a dog

    It is an offence to free an animal where such action causes;

    • The animal to be injured by the Dog, or
    • In circumstances that will cause destruction to the animal unless the person took reasonable steps to prevent it

    For such offences, the Act stipulates 300 penalty units in fines or 1 year imprisonment.


    1. Possession or Use of certain traps

    It is an offence to possess a specific trap or spur unless reasonable excuse. For this section, a trap means

    • A trap prescribed under regulation that is prohibited
    • A spur with a sharpened of fixed teeth
    • Cockfighting spur cap.

    While the offence of possession incurs 100 penalty units, using such instruments incurs punishments of;

    • 300 penalty unit or 1 year imprisonment.

    1. Baits or harmful substances

    Section 36 makes It a severe offence for a person to bait or feed an animal with any harmful substance to injure or kill it. It is an offence that incurs the maximum penalty of 300 penalty units or imprisonment for one year.


    Allowing an aggressive animal to injure or kill another

    A person "in charge" of an animal must not allow it to injure or kill another animal. It includes all deliberate acts of leaving both animals in a circumstance that makes them aggressive. It is an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 300 penalty units or imprisonment for one year.

    Will a Animal Cruelty Offence in Queensland (Qld) show up on a national criminal record check?

    If an individual is found guilty of an animal cruelty offence in Queensland, 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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