Intentionally Causing Serious Animal Cruelty


In NSW, the offence of intentionally causing serious animal cruelty carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. A charge under this section can be brought by the Police, or privately prosecuted by bodies such as the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League (AWL).

In NSW, a court can impose any of the following penalties for a charge of intentionally causing serious animal cruelty.

The Offence of Serious Animal Cruelty

The offence of intentionally causing serious animal cruelty is set out in section 530 of the Crimes Act 1900, which states: “a person who, with the intention of inflicting severe pain: (a) tortures, beats or commits any other serious act of cruelty on an animal, and (b) kills or seriously injures or causes prolonged suffering to the animal, is guilty of an offence.”

What Actions Might Constitute Serious Animal Cruelty?

  • For the purposes of this section, an animal includes: a mammal, other than a human, a bird or a reptile.
  • Serious harm must be done to an animal for an offence to arise out of this section. Examples of past cases prosecuted under this section include:
    • Slicing the throat of a dog with a fishing knife before repeatedly beating it on the head with an axe.
    • A kangaroo ‘hunt’ that involved ramming into animals with motor vehicles before shooting them. For some kangaroos, the injury was so severe that bones were protruding from their bodies before they were shot.
    • Attacking animals with various implements, such as knives or hammers resulting in the animal’s death, or injuries so serious that the animal had to be put down.

What the Prosecution Must Prove

To convict you of a charge of inflicting serious animal cruelty, the Prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  • With the intention of inflicting severe pain on an animal;
  • Tortured, beat or committed a serious act of cruelty on that animal; and
  • That act or an omission to act caused to that animal:
    • Death;
    • Serious injury; or
    • Prolonged suffering.

Possible Defences for Serious Animal Cruelty

It is a statutory defence under this section if:

  • The action was taken was done so with an authority under the Animal Research Act 1985 or any other Act or law; or
  • The action occurred in the course of, for the purposes of routine agricultural or animal husbandry activities, recognised religious practices, the extermination of pests or veterinary practice.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

This offence is a Table 2 offence. This means that the matter will likely be dealt with in the Local Court, however, the Prosecutor can elect to have the matter dealt with in the District Court. If they do so, this will give rise to harsher penalties.

Types of penalties

Jail: This is the most serious penalty and involves full time detention in a correctional facility. Read more.

Home Detention: As a result of amended legislation this penalty was repealed on 24 September 2018 as a standalone order but may be imposed as a condition of an Intensive Corrections Order (ICO). Home detention is an alternative to full-time imprisonment. In effect the gaol sentence is served at your address rather than in a gaol. If you receive a sentence of home detention you will be strictly supervised and subject to electronic monitoring. Read more.

Intensive Corrections Order (ICO): This option has replaced periodic detention. The court can order you to comply with a number of conditions, such as attending counselling or treatment, not consuming alcohol, complying with a curfew and performing community service. Read more.

Suspended Sentence: As a result of amended legislation this penalty was repealed on 24 September 2018. This is a jail sentence that is suspended upon you entering into a good behaviour bond. Provided the terms of the good behaviour bond are obeyed the jail sentence will not come into effect. A suspended sentence is only available for sentences of imprisonment of up to two years. Read more.

Community Service Order (CSO): As a result of amended legislation this penalty was repealed on 24 September 2018 and replaced with a Community Corrections Order (CCO). This involves either unpaid work in the community at a place specified by probation and parole or attendance at a centre to undertake a course, such as anger management. In order to be eligible for a CSO you have to be assessed by an officer of the probation service as suitable to undertake the order. Read more.

Good Behaviour Bond: As a result of amended legislation this penalty was repealed on 24 September 2018 and replaced with a Community Corrections Order (CCO). This is an order of the court that requires you to be of good behaviour for a specified period of time. The court will impose conditions that you will have to obey during the term of the good behaviour bond. The maximum duration of a good behaviour bond is five years. Read more.

Community Corrections Orders (CCO): A CCO involves the standard conditions that an offender must not commit any offence and that the offender must appear before the court if called on to do so at any time during the term of the Community Corrections Orders (CCO). Additional conditions may be imposed at the discretion of the court, both at the time of sentence and subsequently upon application by a community corrections officer, juvenile justice officer or the offender. Read more.

Fines: When deciding the amount of a fine the magistrate or judge should consider your financial situation and your ability to pay any fine they set. Read more.

Section 10A: A section 10A is a conviction, with no other penalty attached to it. Read more.

Conditional Release Order (CRO): A CRO involves the standard conditions that an offender must not commit any offence and that the offender must appear before the court if called on to do so at any time during the term of the CRO. Read more.

Section 10 avoiding a criminal record. Normally, when you plead guilty to a criminal offence, the court imposes a penalty and records a conviction. If the court records a conviction, you will have a criminal record. However, if we can convince the court not to convict you, there will be no penalty of any type and no criminal record. In all criminal cases, the court has the discretion not to convict you, but to give you a Section 10 dismissal instead. Read more.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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