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Serious Animal Cruelty

In New South Wales, 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).

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 is an animal?

For the purposes of this offence, an animal includes a mammal, other than a human, birds and reptiles.

What is serious cruelty?

Serious harm must be done to an animal for an offence to arise out of this section. Examples of successful prosecutions 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 a person of inflicting serious animal cruelty, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they:

  • 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 you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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