Aggravated Animal Cruelty - Charges, Penalties and Sentencing in Victoria

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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

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...

Aggravated Animal Cruelty

In Victoria, aggravated animal cruelty carries a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment or 500 penalty units. In the case of a company (body corporate) the maximum penalty is 1,200 penalty units.

What is Aggravated Animal Cruelty?

The offence of aggravated animal cruelty is contained in section 10 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 which states:

A person who commits an act or acts of cruelty on any animal, which results in the death or serious disablement of the animal, commits aggravated cruelty on that animal and is guilty of an offence and is liable to a penalty of not more than, in the case of a natural person, 500 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years or, in the case of a body corporate, 1200 penalty units.

What Actions Might Constitute Aggravated Animal Cruelty?

The following acts may read to a charge of animal cruelty.

  • Failing to feed a domestic dog and the dog dies;
  • Packing too many horses onto a truck and a number of the horses are seriously injured to the extent they need to be put down;
  • Poisoning a pond and causing their fish to die.

What the Police Must Prove

To convict a person of aggravated animal cruelty, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That they either wounded, mutilated, tortured, overrode, overdrove, overworked, abused, beat, worried, tormented, terrified, abandoned, poisoned or caused the unreasonable suffering of an animal;
  • That they were the owner of the animal or the person in charge of the animal; and,
  • The act of cruelty resulted in the death or serious disablement of the animal.

Possible Defences for Aggravated Animal Cruelty

A person charged with aggravated animal cruelty may defend the charge by arguing:

  • The accused did not care for the animal because they had entered into an agreement with another person by which the other person had agreed to care for the animal;
  • The accused acted reasonably or reasonably omitted to do an act in defending themselves or any other person against an animal or against any threat of attack by an animal.

Which Court Will Hear the Matter?

This is a summary matter and will be heard in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

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