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.   

In Queensland it is a criminal offence to commit an act of animal cruelty or breach your duty of care to an animal under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. The act 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. The duty includes obligations to ensure the animal is handled properly, provided with food and water, has appropriate living conditions, allows the animal to display normal patterns of behaviour and seek treatment for illness or injuries.  

You can be found to breach the duty of care to animals by going away on holiday or moving house and leaving a pet behind to fend for itself or by deliberately dumping an unwanted animal.  It is illegal to put animals through unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable pain.    

The Law Surrounding Breach of Duty of Care

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

(1) A person in charge of an animal owes a duty of care to it. 

(2) The person must not breach the duty of care.  

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 Breach of Duty of Care the Prosecution must prove; 

  1. Defendant – The Prosecutor has to prove the identification of the offender; 
  2. Owed a Duty of care – The animal is owned by the Defendant or under the Defendants care 
  3. Breached the duty of care – by not complying with obligations to ensure animals are taken care of properly.  

Consequences of Breaching Duty of Care

Maximum Penalty for Breach of Duty of Care 

The maximum penalty for breaching the duty of care is 1 years imprisonment or 300 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 of Breach of Duty of Care

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 Breach of Duty of Care 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 a Criminal Lawyer

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