New animal cruelty offence

Steven White
Queensland

A new aggravated animal cruelty offence is to be created in Queensland. The Queensland government has opted to create the offence under the Criminal Code (Qld), rather than the prevailing animal welfare legislation, the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld) (‘ACPA’). The new indictable offence, of ‘serious animal cruelty’, will carry a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment and will apply to ‘a person who unlawfully kills, seriously injures or causes an animal prolonged suffering and does so intending to inflict severe pain or suffering on the animal’.

There are, however, significant changes to the ACPA proposed as well. Maximum penalties for the cruelty offence under the ACPA are to be increased from 2 years or a $100 000 fine to 3 years or a $200 000 fine. As well, where a person is convicted of a serious animal welfare offence (the ACPA cruelty offence, as well as the new serious animal cruelty offence under the Criminal Code and an existing animal cruelty offence under the Code), the court will be required to impose an order prohibiting the person from possessing or purchasing the animal subjected to the cruelty, or an animal of similar type, unless the convicted person can satisfy the court this would be unjust. RSPCA Queensland inspectors will be conferred with the necessary powers to investigate and commence a proceeding for a person charged under the serious animal cruelty offence, although the Director of Public Prosecutions will be solely responsible for managing matters which go forward on indictment.

The amending legislation is still before parliament. With election fever beginning to build in Queensland it is not clear whether the legislation will be passed before the proroguing of parliament.

STEVEN WHITE teaches law at Griffith University.

(2012) 37(1) AltLJ 64
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