QSAC reports less than 10% of Queensland animal cruelty offenders receive custodial terms

A total of 76 custodial orders were meted out to the 1115 Queenslander’s convicted of animal cruelty over a 13-year period captured in the most recent state government agency evidence-based review. 

The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council’s Sentencing Spotlight on Animal Welfare Offences is the last report to conduct a fact based evidence review to analyse the types of offenders and offences committed against animals in the state between 2005-06 and 2017-18. 

Earlier this month, Queensland’s Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner announced the first review of the state’s animal welfare laws in 20 years. 

Mr Furner said the use of animals in scientific testing, restraining dogs in open “utes’’ or other vehicles and whether vets should be legally compelled to report suspected animal cruelty would all be considered as part of the Queensland Government’s first review of its animal welfare laws in more than 20 years. 

QSAC’s report revealed the maximum penalties for animal cruelty ranged from one to seven-years imprisonment and fines of between $13,345 to $266,900. 

The list of offences included failure to comply with an animal welfare direction, to using baits or harmful substances, using them for blooding or coursing, removing of claws, docking of tails for cows, horses and dogs to serious animal cruelty. 

The report said of the 1115 cases studied, 2416 involved charges of various offences – including 853 (76.5%) that were in the “most serious offence’’ (MSO) category. 

“Courts have discretion to impose any available Queensland sentencing order for offences against animals, with aggravating and mitigating factors required to be taken into consideration,’’ the report says. 

“No mandatory sentencing provisions apply. From 2005-06 to 2017-18, the majority of offenders sentenced for an offence against animals (MSO) received a non-custodial penalty (90.8%). 

“A custodial penalty was ordered in 76 cases (9.2%). A fine was the most common penalty imposed (68.2%). 

Of those custodial sentences, 33 received actual terms of imprisonment, 40 received wholly suspended prison terms and three intensive correction orders. 

Mr Furner, in making the announcement of the state government’s proposed animal welfare review on April 4, said all Queenslanders were invited to have their say on possible changes to the laws on issues including the use of baits and traps and whether the current penalties for animal cruelty offences were harsh enough. 

“I know Queenslanders love their animals as valued members of their families,” Mr Furner said. 

“They are also vital to agricultural production, involved in sport and recreational activities, and they assist individuals and services in areas such as quarantine and security.” 

“While the current laws have served us well, they’ve been operating for 20 years without a significant review. In that time, the community’s expectations for animal welfare has evolved 

“This review will examine all aspects of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 to ensure that the Act continues to meet changing community expectations and modern animal welfare practices. 

“I encourage anyone who has an interest in the care of animals to have a say as part of the review – whether you have pets, produce livestock for a living, or work with animals.” 

Topics to be raised and seeking community feedback ahead of the review include: 

  • Mandatory reporting by veterinary professionals of animal welfare concerns; 
  • Prohibited events, regulated surgical procedures and offence exemptions; 
  • The use of baits and traps; 
  • Restraining dogs in open utility vehicles and trucks; 
  • The use of animals in science; 
  • Inspector powers and arrangements for externally appointed inspectors; 
  • The management of animals seized during animal welfare investigations; and 
  • Penalties for animal cruelty. 

Organisations and people wanting to have their say should do so before midnight on May 21 by visiting biosecurity.qld.gov.au and searching for ‘ACPA review’ to complete the survey or submit a written response. 

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