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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Animal Cruelty Offences Animal Cruelty Offences and Penalties in Western Australia (WA)

    Animal Cruelty Offences and Penalties in Western Australia (WA)

    Western Australia considers animal cruelty to be an offence in all circumstances. Since most domestic animals depend on humans for their living and survival, it is an offence to maltreat any such animals under the person’s care.

    All animal cruelty matters and neglects falls under the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA). Also, the RSPCA and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development can investigate, inspect and manage all matters regarding Animal cruelty offences in WA.

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

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

    Penalty for Animal Cruelty offences

    In WA, Animal Cruelty is a severe offence that incurs severe fines, and in some cases, punishments reaching up to 5 years imprisonment.

    1. The offence of Animal Cruelty

    All forms of actions that result in detriments to animals or their means of living are considered Animal Cruelty under section 19 of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA). There are various acts or activities from non-commission that result in animal cruelty, which includes;

    • Torturing, Wounding, Bruising, Scaring, Maltreating, Hitting (without reasonable cause)
    • Torturing with aids like electricity, heat, extreme force, and so on.
    • Poisoning the animal with any substances. It includes all cases where the person carries out unregulated/unlicensed research using the animal.
    • Using any other means the court considers illegal to harm the animal

    Animal Cruelty does not only consist of physical injury to the animal. A person would also be guilty of animal cruelty if they;

    • Transport or move the animal in any way that causes it unnecessary harm
    • Caged, managed or controlled the animal in a way that caused it unnecessary harm
    • Drive, use, ride the animal in a manner that is not biologically/statutorily fit for the purpose
    • Could not provide adequate food or water for the animal
    • Neglected the animal, especially those that are dependent on humans
    • Performed unlicensed surgery or acts not approved by the body
    • Caused any other form of harm to the animal
    • Any other matter considered in court that would reasonably cause harm to the animal

    For this offence, the court can following the Act issue penalties up to;

    $50,000 and a five years imprisonment term

    The court cannot issue less than $2,000 for such an offence.

    1. Attempting to inflict Cruelty on an animal

    It is an offence under section 31 to possess equipment or material with the intent of inflicting Cruelty on the animal. The Act prescribes penalties up to $20,000 in fines or one-year imprisonment for this offence.

    1. Shooting, hunting, or fighting captive animals

    The Animal Welfare Act also prevents all hunting or fighting captive animals. This offence includes all cases where the person spectates, promotes, organises, promotes or allows such prohibited activity to occur within the premises.

    For this offence, the prohibited activities include;

    • Shooting the animal,
    • Hunting the animal,
    • Fighting the animal,
    • Chasing the animal

    1. Unlicensed use of Animals for scientific purposes

    A person cannot use an animal for a scientific purpose except on strict approval from the;

    • Scientific establishment that holds, or an official of a scientific establishment,
    • An animal ethics committee from a similar establishment,
    • The person uses the animal under regulations.

    For such offences, the court imposes a penalty of up to $50,000 and a five years imprisonment.

    It is also an offence to perform such scientific purposes on the animal outside of a licensed place. Conducting scientific research outside of a permitted area attracts the Penalty of $50,000 and a 5-year imprisonment.

    1. The business of supplying animals for scientific purpose

    Section 7 of the Act is an offence for a person to carry on a company that delivers an animal for scientific purposes. The court stipulates penalties up to $50,000 or a five-year imprisonment term for such offences.

    1. Additional Court Orders for Animal Cruelty Offence

    Suppose the court feels the stipulated penalties are inappropriate for the offence, or the matter requires special attention. In that case, it may impose other orders like a post mortem on the animal. For this case, the court will order a State veterinary Surgeon to carry out a post-mortem.

    When it is complete, the veterinarian must make such results available to the court, prosecutor and alleged offender.

    1. Additional Penalty for an Animal cruelty offence

    Where the court deems it necessary, it will impose any further sanctions on the offenders relating to the offence. Section 55 of the Act allows the court to set reasonable and special penalties for "extraordinary” cases of Animal welfare violation.

    Some of these court orders include;

    • Prohibit the offender from managing or taking charge of such animal in future
    • Having contact with the animal in future
    • Prohibit the offender from owning any other kind of animal primarily related to the affected animal
    • For specific periods, or
    • Permanently until a period, the court is satisfied with.

    Order that the animal or other animals in the offender's care be removed or treated under the Biodiversity Conservation department;

    • Order that the offender surrenders all other animals (or the harmed) to the crown,
    • Order euthanasia or humane end to the animal suffering severe harm,
    • Order the offender to reimburse a person who suffers certain costs from the death of the animal,
    • Suspend or revoke the license or impose certain conditions,
    • Disqualify the offender from getting future permits, especially if they are related to animal care.

    The offence of not surrendering a revoked license

    The court considers it an offence not to surrender a revoked license within seven days. If the Minister cannot lay hold of the permit at that period, the person is guilty of an offence that carries a $2,000 penalty.

    Offence of not complying with any other Order

    If the court makes a particular order against a person regarding an animal welfare offence, the offender must adhere to all conditions. The offence of refusing a particular court order carries a penalty of $20,000 or 1-year imprisonment.

    Defences to an Animal welfare offence

    The Animal welfare act also further proffer defences to the charges of Violations against Animal welfare. The court can accept these few defences only where they apply to the Charge of Animal cruelty through sections 19 to 31 of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA).

    • Killing pests

    Pests are insufferable and stubborn towards farming and living. However, the Animal Acts and legislations in WA provide acceptable means to deal with them. Section 24 provides a means of defence for the accused if the act was an ill-fated attempt to kill a pest.

    However, the accused must prove that they employed generally acceptable standards and means to ensure only Pests are harmed. The Animal laws of WA also gives explicit details about what constitutes a Pest in WA.

    • Self Defence

    Section 20 provides an escape for a defendant if they were acting out of self-defence or preservation. However, they must prove to the court how the act of Cruelty was reasonably a self-defence mechanism at the time of the offence.

    Furthermore, it does not count as self-defence if the accused was involved in the act of Cruelty at the time. Also, an argument of self-defence will not hold if the person provoked the animal to attack

    • Veterinary Care

    An act of Cruelty can be dismissed under veterinary care if at the time;

    • ✔ The person was carrying out a licensed veterinary action on the animal,
    • ✔ A body approved the practice,
    • ✔ The act was carried out in a licensed location.

    The accused will have to prove and show evidence that veterinary principles approve the manner and methods used. Section 21 of the Act provides more details and aids for using veterinary care as a defence for an Animal cruelty offence.

    • Code of Practice

    Section 25 provides the code of practice of licensed and regulated bodies as a defence for Animal related offences. For example, a person acting under the Code of Practice for Welfare of Animals Livestock at Slaughtering Establishments is not guilty of animal cruelty offences.

    • Authorised by the law

    Section 22 of the Act would exonerate a person from a charge of animal cruelty if they acted according to the law. It includes all licensed and legal inspectors and other members of an Animal welfare board.

    Also, they must prove that they carried out such an act humanely and legally.

    • Animal husbandry

    Section 23 provides a defence to the charge of animal cruelty of the act was carried out within acceptable principles of Animal husbandry. The accused should also prove that the action was humane and legal under the jurisdiction.

    • Other Valid Defences in Court

    Section 26 gives the defence of where the accused only allowed the animal to roam in a large and conducive property to fend. The person must also prove that such land/property is conducive and bears no potential ill to an animal.

    Section 27 lists releasing the animal to the wild as a defence only where it is proven that such movement would not have affected the animal.

    • Using an Animal for Scientific Research

    Western Australian laws forbid the use of an animal for scientific studies unless within the confines of the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare (Scientific Purposes) Regulations 2003 must also issue a license to that operation.

    Will a Animal Cruelty Offence in WA show up on a national criminal record check?

    If an individual is found guilty of an animal cruelty offence in WA, 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 2002 (WA) -

    Animal Welfare (Scientific Purposes) Regulations 2003 (WA) -

    RSPCA Western Australia (Animal Welfare Legislation) -

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