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WHILE cruelty or neglect of an animal can have serious consequences for a family pet, it can also carry penalties as serious as those issued by a court for assaulting a human.
In Queensland, animal welfare is governed by the Animal Care and Protection Act, which is designed to ensure animals are treated humanely.

Under these laws, it is illegal to put animals through unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable pain. It is also breaking the law to breach a duty of care to animal by going away on holiday or moving house and leaving a pet behind to fend for itself. Deliberately dumping an unwanted animal could also lead to criminal charges.

Holding prohibited events such as cock fighting, bull fighting, dog fighting and certain types of hunting could also land you in court. The maximum penalty for an individual convicted of participating in a prohibited event is $37,845 or one year imprisonment. The maximum penalty for attending an illegal animal fight is $18,922.50 or one year behind bars.

Using live baits in racing is also against the law and allowing an animal to injure or kill another animal could cost you up to $37,845 or land you in jail for one year.

Cruelty to an animal can include beating, tormenting, overworking, transporting animals that are not fit to travel or killing an animal inhumanely. The offence of cruelty to an animal carries maximum penalty of $252,300 or three years’ jail.  There are also offences for severe animal cruelty under the Criminal Code, which could see penalties up to seven years’ imprisonment enforced.

RSPCA inspectors can enter places and vehicles, inspect animals, relieve animals of pain, copy documents, seize and destroy animals as part of investigations into animal care and protection.

In a recent matter involving a pet staffie, Howden Saggers Lawyers secured an acquittal for a client charged with two counts of animal cruelty. The man was accused of squeezing the dog around the neck forcefully and killing it by hitting it with a sledge hammer. But last month, Brisbane Magistrate Jacqui Payne found Gaythorne man Andrew Fischer not guilty of two animal cruelty charges. Ms Payne said she was not satisfied the dog was unconscious when it was struck with the sledgehammer and there was no direct evidence the dog was even killed because body of the dog was never found.

The court also found acts done by the ­defendant were under circumstances of extraordinary emergency, namely that the dog was choked because it had another dog, Mr Fischer’s pet, in its mouth. Ms Payne also found Mr Fischer hit the dog with the sledgehammer because she tried to bite him.