Animal cruelty

Find out what animal cruelty is and what you can do to stop it.

What constitutes cruelty to an animal?

The Animal Welfare Act 2002 states that a person is cruel to an animal if he or she:

  • Tortures, mutilates, wounds, abuses or otherwise ill-treats the animal
  • Transports or confines the animal in a manner that causes, or is likely to cause, unnecessary harm
  • Works, drives, rides or otherwise uses the animal when it is not fit to be used
  • Fails to provide sufficient food, water or shelter for the animal
  • Abandons an animal
  • Intentionally or recklessly poisons the animal.

The Act also forbids the possession of devices used to inflict cruelty on animals, or the use of such inhumane devices on animals.

In addition, it is an offence to allows captive animals to fight each other, or be released for hunting, chasing or killing. Persons who organise, participate, observe, promote or keep animals for such acts are guilty of cruelty under the Act.

It is also an offence to dock a dog's tail for cosmetic reasons. Tail docking can is only legal if performed by a registered veterinarian for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes.

What to do if someone is being cruel to an animal?

If you see or know of someone who is being cruel to an animal, you need to contact the RSPCA  on 1300 278 3589.

An Animal Welfare Officer authorised under the Animal Welfare Act 2002 will act on the information received and investigate reports of sick, injured and neglected animals. If necessary, they will prosecute the offenders.