Animal cruelty is often committed in the following ways:
An accidental killing
A person is enraged at their new puppy for fouling the carpet and, in an attempt to discipline the animal, kicks it with some force. Unfortunately, the force of the kick causes the animal’s ribs to break and puncture one or another vital organ. Over the next week the puppy becomes progressively sicker and dies. A post-mortem examination reveals the cause of death to be the owner’s kick. Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to receive a large fine, half payable to the RSPCA, likely with a criminal conviction being recorded. If this person has other pets in the family home they are likely to be prohibited from keeping them any longer.
Deliberate neglect and mistreatment
A person keeps an animal which they enter into organised dog fights (itself a separate, prohibited, activity). In order to make the dog more aggressive during its fights the owner regularly beats it and, in the days leading up to an event, they withdraw food from it (to heighten its desperation and aggression ‘in the ring’). Assuming they are a first offender this person might expect to lose possession of their dog (which will likely be destroyed) and be released on Probation or some form of conditional jail sentence (perhaps a suspended sentence or a parole release).
Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only. Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.
A charge of animal cruelty will be heard in the Magistrates Court
If a client is sentenced for animal cruelty the prosecutor (normally a private solicitor retained by the RSPCA) will likely seek a moiety in favour of the RSPCA as part of any pecuniary penalty. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the costs associated with transporting, housing and in some cases destroying, animals which are seized from clients be payable by that client on sentence (the court can make such an order by dint of s.190 of the Act).
A client can enhance their position on sentence if they are able to pay the cost of the seizure/destruction prior to attending court, this can normally be arranged via the prosecutor who will provide an invoice for the costs incurred which can be paid through the ordinary mechanisms. If undertaking this course of action it is important that good records are kept of payments which are made – client’s should take screen shots of transaction receipts and, if time allows, receipt of payment should be confirmed in writing with the prosecutor before attending court.
Be conscious, when advising a client, of the implications of a prohibition order on them and their family. Prohibition orders can be made in respect of animals which are entirely unrelated to the cruelty proceeding, for example a person (and their children) can lose possession of their family pets even if those pets suffered no cruelty at all.