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  • Animal Cruelty Offences and Penalties in Victoria (Vic)

    Several types of offences can constitute animal cruelty Victoria. Each offence attracts penalties such as fines and disqualification from owning an animal.

    From 2011 to 2017, there had been an average of 11,000 animal cruelty complaints each year in Victoria. These numbers show that animal cruelty is not a strange occurrence.

    The legislation that underpins animal cruelty offences and penalties in Victoria is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic).

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

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

    In this article, we will be considering the various offences regarding animal cruelty. We will also be looking at their penalties.

    before going into these areas, we need to define some specific terms relating to animal cruelty in Victoria.

    Definition of Baiting

    According to Section 8 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic), baiting refers to the act of instigating an animal to fight with another animal.

    Definition of Rodeo or Rodeo School

    A rodeo is an event involving an exhibition or a competition where individuals carry out the act of buck jumping, roping or tying. It also has to do with animal dogging and rough riding activities.

    For rodeo school, this refers to teaching an individual or a group of people the act of buck jumping, roping or tying, roughly riding an animal and animal dogging.

    Definition of Trapshooting

    Trap-shooting means holding a bird in any form of contrivance and then releasing the bird to shoot it down. The contrivance could be a cage, box or trap. It could even be a person holding a bird with their hands or a mechanical device.

    The Offence of Animal Cruelty in Victoria

    Under Section 9(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic), a person can be guilty of animal cruelty if they perform specific actions.

    These actions involve;

    • Causing an animal severe pain through mutilation, torture, torments, and other similar abuses such as beating, worrying, terrifying or overworking an animal.
    • Confining an animal in a way that could cause pain or significant discomfort to the animal.
    • Failing to perform an action that could prevent an animal from experiencing an unreasonable amount of pain or suffering.
    • Transporting an animal in a manner that places the animal in unnecessary pain or suffering.
    • Riding, working or using an animal that is unfit for such a purpose, resulting in a tremendous amount of suffering and pain for the animal.
    • Confining an animal without making provisions of food, water and shelter.
    • Selling, purchasing, or conveying an animal that is medically unfit for these activities. This action may result from an injury, emaciation, or a disease.
    • Abandoning an animal used to being in confinement or a domestic setting.
    • Being in charge of a sick or injured animal and failing to provide treatment for the animal. Providing treatment could involve calling a vet to check the animal or providing appropriate treatment.

    Furthermore, animal cruelty involves the intentional use of poison or any harmful substance to lay bait for an animal. Any individual who commits the offence of animal cruelty is liable to a penalty of 250 units or 12 months imprisonment.

    If a corporate body commits this offence, the maximum punishment would be 600 penalty units.

    When facing charges for animal cruelty in Victoria, an individual can claim the defence that before the crime took place, the animal was not in their care.

    Aggravated Animal Cruelty

    According to Section 10 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic), aggravated animal cruelty refers to committing the offence of animal cruelty, resulting in the serious disablement or death of the animal.

    Any person guilty of this offence could get a penalty of 500 penalty units or two years imprisonment. If a corporate body commits the crime of aggravated animal cruelty, then the sentence would be 1,200 penalty units.

    Suppose a person faces charges for aggravated animal cruelty. In that case, they can claim the defence that they carried out the act to defend themself or another person against an attack from the animal. However, they would have to prove that their action was a reasonable response to the threat.

    Baiting and Luring

    Under Section 13 of the Act, a person can be guilty of baiting and luring if they preserve or manage an area for instigating animal fights or any form of animal maltreatment. If an accused is convicted of this crime, they could get 500 penalty units or two years imprisonment. In the case of a corporate body, the punishment would be 1,200 penalty units.

    Also, it is an offence for anyone to allow or encourage an animal to fight with another animal. It is no defence that both animals are of the same species. Anyone guilty of this offence is liable to 500 penalty units or two years imprisonment. For a corporate body, the punishment would be 1,200 penalty units.

    Furthermore, a person can be guilty of committing the crime of baiting and luring if they procure an animal and release the animal for a dog to pursue, injure or kill it. This offence attracts a penalty of 500 units or two years imprisonment, while the punishment is 1200 units for a corporate body.

    Also, it is a violation of law for a person to acquire an animal in captivity for a dog to injure the animal. This crime carries 500 penalty units or two years imprisonment. If a corporate body is guilty of this crime, it may receive 1,200 penalty units.

    Additionally, the legislation relating to baiting and luring states that no individual must utilise an animal for the motive of blooding a greyhound or racing any coursing dog. This offence attracts 500 penalty units or two years imprisonment. If the offender is a corporate body, then the penalty would be 1,200 penalty units.

    The law also establishes that it is a crime for any person to acquire or have an animal in their care if they intend to use the animal to blood a greyhound or race a coursing dog. Any person who commits this offence could receive 500 penalty units or two years imprisonment, while for a corporate body, the punishment would be 1,200 penalty units.

    Regarding baiting and luring, it is an offence for a person to attend an event where people encourage an animal to fight with another animal regardless of whether they are of the same species. This offence attracts 120 penalty units.

    Furthermore, it is a crime for a person to be in an event where a person uses an animal to blood a greyhound or race a coursing dog. The punishment for this crime is 120 penalty units.

    During trial for using an animal for blooding a greyhound or racing a dog, the prosecution will need evidence from a vet that an animal was alive before the time a dog attacked the animal.

    When facing charges for baiting or luring, a person can claim that they were unaware of the crime or did not consent to the crime. A person can also claim that they did everything they could to prevent the crime.

    Trapshooting Offence

    Any individual who keeps or preserves an area for the goal of trapshooting birds is guilty of committing a crime and could get a punishment of 240 penalty units or two years imprisonment. In addition, if a corporate body commits the crime of trapshooting, then it may receive 1200 penalty units. This legislation is evident in Section 14 of the Act.

    Selling Traps in Victoria

    In Section 15 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic) it is a crime for a person to sell an unprescribed kind of trap. This offence attracts 240 penalty units or two years imprisonment.

    If a corporate body commits the crime of selling an unprescribed trap, then they could get 1,200 penalty units. However, this legislation does not apply if someone sells an unprescribed trap to a museum or a trap collector.

    Setting or Using Animal Traps in Victoria

    Under Section 15AB of the Act, any person who sells a trap that regulation does not prescribe has committed an offence.

    As such, the offender can receive a punishment of 240 penalty units or two years imprisonment. If a corporate body is guilty of this offence, the punishment becomes 1,200 penalty units.

    In a case where a person uses a prescribed trap, they must do so according to the regulation regarding the use of such traps. Failure to follow the regulations can attract 240 penalty units or two years imprisonment. While for a corporate body, the punishment would be 1,200 penalty units.

    Under this legislation, it is a crime for a person to use a large leghold trap unless they use such a trap in an area where the legislation permits. Illegally setting a large leghold trap attracts 240 penalty units or two years imprisonment. For a corporate body, the punishment is 1,200 penalty units.

    Dogs on Moving Vehicles in Victoria

    Section 15A of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic) states that it is an offence for a person to transport a dog using an unsecured tray or trailer. This is because it exposes the dog to the risk of falling off and getting injured. This offence carries a punishment of 10 penalty units.

    Breeding Animals with Heritable Defects

    Under Section 15C the Act, it is a crime for an individual to intentionally or recklessly give room for an animal with a heritable defect to breed. The punishment for this crime is 60 penalty units, while for a corporate body, the punishment is 300 penalty units.

    Furthermore, under this section, it is an offence for an individual to sell or dispose of an animal with a heritable defect unless the buyer or the person receiving the animal is aware of its condition.

    Committing the crime of selling or disposing of an animal with heritable defects attracts 60 penalty units for a person and 300 penalty units for a corporate body.

    Operating a Rodeo Without a License or Permit

    Section 16 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic) states that it is illegal for a person to operate a rodeo without obtaining a rodeo license or permit. This offence carries 120 penalty units for an individual and 600 for a corporate body.

    Furthermore, it is a crime for a person to run a rodeo school without getting a rodeo school permit. This offence attracts 120 penalty units for a person, while for a corporate body, the punishment is 600 penalty units.

    Prohibited Procedure Offence on Dogs

    It is a violation of law to carry out a prohibited procedure on a dog or other animal in Victoria. Some of the banned procedures relating to a dog include debarking, ear cropping and tail docking.

    Also, it is a crime for an animal owner to allow a person to carry out a prohibited procedure on their animal. Committing any of these crimes could attract 250 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment for an individual. For a corporate body, the punishment would be 600 penalty units.

    In a situation where a prohibited procedure has been carried out, it is a crime to exhibit the animal. This offence carries 20 penalty units.

    Other Penalties for the Crime of Animal Cruelty

    When a person commits a crime relating to animal cruelty, the court could disqualify them from owning or having an animal in their care. This ruling depends on the circumstances around the case.

    The disqualification could either be permanent or for a specific period. Failure to comply with the court order could attract different penalties.

    Furthermore, the court may give authorisation for the appropriate authorities to enter a premise to conduct a search and seize the animal of an offender. The relevant authorities generally refer to POCTA (Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals) officers.

    Under Section 18 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic), a POCTA officer could be any police officer. A POCTA officer could also be a full time or part-time officer in the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). It could also be anyone who has the minister's approval for the prevention of animal cruelty in Victoria.

    Bottom Line

    The state of Victoria does not condone the inhuman treatment of animals. As such, there are several penalties to check the way people treat animals.

    Anyone facing charges for the crime of animal cruelty should seek legal advice. This is because being guilty of animal cruelty can become a criminal record that a person might be unable to erase.

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

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

    Sources

    Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic) - https://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/in-force/acts/prevention-cruelty-animals-act-1986/096

    Sentencing Advisory Council of Victoria (Animal Cruelty Offences in Victoria) - https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-08/Animal_Cruelty_Offences_in_Victoria.pdf

    Animal Welfare Victoria (Prohibited Procedures on Dogs) - https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/livestock-and-animals/animal-welfare-victoria/dogs/legal-requirements-for-dog-owners/prohibited-procedures-on-dogs

    Austlii Alternative Law Journal (Legislation for Animal Welfare - Making the Interests of Animals Count) - http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AltLawJl/2003/86.html

    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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