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Animal abusers face lifetime bans in NSW first

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NSW has become the first state in Australia to introduce laws banning animal abusers from ever owning or working with animals again.

The government amendment bill, introduced last Thursday, includes the possibility of jail time and up to $110,000 in fines for anyone found guilty of cruelty to animals.

The amendment follows two years of advocacy by NSW Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst.

Anyone convicted over animal abuse in NSW will now be banned for life from owning or working with animals. 

Penalties are an eightfold increase on the previous maximum.

The changes, including increased fines, new offence definitions and inclusions, and increased limitations, are being welcomed by RSPCA NSW CEO Steve Coleman.

“This is a milestone for all animals great and small across the state,” he said.

“These are things that we have been advocating for as an organisation for many years and we are pleased that state legislation is progressing to reflect changing community expectations. 

“We know that the community feels strongly about animal welfare. 

“These changes will help us to continue our mission to protect and serve animals.”

The maximum penalty increases include: 

  • For committing an act of cruelty: fine increased from $5,500 and/or 6 months imprisonment to $44,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment for individuals, and from $27,500 to $220,000 for corporations. 
  • For committing an act of aggravated cruelty: fine increased from $22,000 to $110,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment for individuals, and from $110,000 to $550,000 for corporations. 
  • For failure to provide proper and sufficient food, drink or shelter: fine increased from $5,500 to $16,500 and/or 6 months imprisonment for individuals, and from $27,000 to $82,500 for corporations. 
  • For failure to comply with a prohibition order and for failure to produce animal pursuant to a court order: fine increased from $2,750 to $5,500 and/or 6 months imprisonment. 
  • The limitation period for commencement of proceedings has also increased from 12 months to three years, which extends the period of time for RSPCA inspectors to investigate cruelty complaints. 
  • The inclusion of a definition for an ‘animal cruelty offence’, which extends disqualification orders to offences under the Crimes Act as well as POCTAA.  
  • The introduction of a new definition ‘disqualification order’, which is available for defendants convicted of offences under POCTAA and the Crimes Act. The court may also make interim disqualification orders which apply to prevent people before the Court for animal cruelty offences acquiring animals while the matters are before the Court.
  • A new offence has been created under POCTAA, which prohibits people convicted of animal cruelty offences under the Crimes Act from purchasing, owning or working with animals. These include offences of serious animal cruelty and bestiality.

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