This article is for general information only and should not be relied on for specific legal advice.  The author will not be held responsible for any action that a person takes as a result of interpretation of the contents of this article.  It is important to seek specific advice from a qualified and experienced lawyer for any legal problem. 

What is Animal Cruelty?

In Queensland it is a criminal offence to commit an act of animal cruelty under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001.  The act firstly imposes a legal duty of care on people who are in care of animals. Complaints about breaches can be investigated by Queensland Police, the RSPCA or Biosecurity Queensland.

All owners and carers of animals in Queensland have a duty of care to the animals they are caring for.  If the duty of care is not upheld or an individual is cruel to an animal they can be criminally charged and convicted.

Being cruel to an animal includes:

  • beating, abusing, terrifying or tormenting an animal;
  • confining or transporting an animal without appropriate preparation such as food and water;
  • killing an animal inhumanely;
  • injuring or wounding an animal.

It is illegal to put animals through unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable pain.  

The Law:-

Section 17 of the Animal Care and Protection Act (Qld) states;

A person must not be cruel to an animal.


Maximum penalty—2000 penalty units or 3 years imprisonment.


This provision is an executive liability provision—see section 209 .

(2) Without limiting subsection (1) , a person is taken to be cruel to an animal if the person does any of the following to the animal

(a) causes it pain that, in the circumstances, is unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable;

(b) beats it so as to cause the animal pain;

(c) abuses, terrifies, torments or worries it;

(d) overdrives, overrides or overworks it;

(e) uses on the animal an electrical device prescribed under a regulation;

(f) confines or transports it—

(i) without appropriate preparation, including, for example, appropriate food, rest, shelter or water; or

(ii) when it is unfit for the confinement or transport; or

(iii) in a way that is inappropriate for the animal’s welfare; or

Examples for subparagraph (iii)—

• placing the animal, during the confinement or transport, with too few or too many other animals or with a species of animal with which it is incompatible

• not providing the animal with appropriate spells

• confining the animal in or on a vehicle in a way that causes heat stress or other pain for the animal

(iv) in an unsuitable container or vehicle;

(g) kills it in a way that—

(i) is inhumane; or

(ii) causes it not to die quickly; or

(iii) causes it to die in unreasonable pain;

(h) unjustifiably, unnecessarily or unreasonably—

(i) injures or wounds it; or

(ii) overcrowds or overloads it.

Section 18 of the Animal Care and Protection Act (Qld) states;

(1) A person must not be cruel to an animal.

Elements of the Offence:-

It is the duty of the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant has committed the offence.  Every charge has a number of elements that the Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  For the charge of Animal Cruelty the Prosecution must prove;

1. Defendant – The Prosecutor has to prove the identification of the offender;

2. Was Cruel;

3. To an Animal.

Maximum Penalty for Breach of Duty of Care and Animal Cruelty:-

Animal cruelty holds a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment or 2000 penalty units.


In Queensland, if a person is convicted of Animal Cruelty, then the court could impose one of the following penalties:

  • Jail (suspended, parole or actual time);
  • Intensive Corrections Order;
  • Probation;
  • Community Service Order;
  • Fines.

The actual penalty will depend on the circumstances of the matter including the seriousness of the offence and the individual circumstances and background of the Defendant.

Possible Defences:- 

There are a number of defences available to charges at law.  Not every defence is available to every charge.  You will need to seek specific legal advice to see if you have a defence available to you for this charge.  Some of the common defences available in criminal charges are;

  • Necessity;
  • Mistake of Fact;
  • Public Safety;
  • Self Defence or defence of another person;
  • Intoxication;
  • Provocation;
  • Accident;
  • Duress;
  • Compulsion;
  • Insanity;
  • Automatism

Which Court will your matter be heard in?

The charge Animal Cruelty will be heard in the Magistrates Court in Queensland.  The charge will be heard and determined by a Magistrate alone whether you plead guilty or not guilty.  There is no jury in the Magistrates Court.   

What should I do if the police want to speak to me about an Animal Cruelty allegation or if I am charged with Animal Cruelty?

You have the right to remain silent. You DO have to provide police with your name, date of birth and contact details. You should NOT answer any questions, make any statement or participate in any interview with the police. You should be polite to the officer but insist that you want to talk to your lawyer. You have the right to telephone a friend, relative or lawyer.

Call an Expert

If you are charged with a criminal offence, it is very important that you seek immediate legal advice. Our team at Brooke Winter Solicitors can give you over the phone advice. We have a solid reputation as expert Criminal Lawyers and can represent you in court.

Call us on 1300 066 669 if you have any questions. We can assist you no matter where you are located and can appear in every court.