Aggravated Animal Cruelty

– section 10 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986



Aggravated Animal Cruelty is when an act of cruelty to an animal causes death or serious injury to the animal.

Examples of Aggravated Animal Cruelty
  • 2 people run a small horse farm and pay no or little attention to the horses’ health. As a result all 12 horses are suffering long term dental, eye, parasite, and other health problems.
  • A person refuses to feed their dog for 5 days as punishment for barking through the night. The dog then dies.
  • A person throws large rocks at a possum for fun. The possum’s leg is broken as a result, and the possum is then put down by vets.

One of our clients, in company with 3 other teenagers, had stolen a cat and then strung it up on a bridge until it died. In the Children’s Court, the accused was charged with theft and Aggravated Cruelty to an animal. He was sentenced to 4 months detention in a Youth Training Centre.


We successfully represented our client to appeal against the sentence. The appeal was successful, and our client was re-sentenced, without conviction, to a probation order for 6 months.

What are possible defences to an Aggravated Animal Cruelty charge?
  • There was no act of cruelty.
  • There was an honest and reasonable belief that the act was not cruel.
  • Death or serious disablement was not caused by the act.

There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions in cases like this
  • How do they prove that there was an act of cruelty?
  • How do they prove cruel intentions?
  • How do they prove an act caused death or serious injury?

Maximum penalty and Court that deals with this charge

The maximum penalty for this offence in the case of a natural person is 500 penalty units ( $77, 730) or imprisonment for 2 years or, in the case of a body corporate, 1200 penalty units ($186,552).

Aggravated animal cruelty will generally be heard in the Magistrates Court.

“Was the behaviour really cruel?”
What is the legal definition of Aggravated Animal Cruelty?

The legal definition of Aggravated Animal Cruelty is an act of cruelty to an animal that results in death or serious injury.


The section that covers this offence is section 10 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.1

prison penalty sentencing

What can you be sentenced to for this charge?

A range of sentences are available, from a fine for less serious offences to a jail term for the most serious. Jail terms are more common that they used to be for these types of offences

Sentencing Outcomes in the Magistrates’ Courts2

From 2010 to 2012, there were a total of 91 cases of Aggravated Animal Cruelty that were heard in the Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria. Majority of the cases resulted in a fine (42) while imprisonment was imposed in only 7 of the cases.

Other sentencing results include: wholly suspended sentence (11%), community correction order (3.3%), intensive correction order (8.8%), community-based order (6.6%), and adjourned undertaking / discharge / dismissal (16.5%).

Case Studies


[1] Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 – Section 10

(1) A person who commits an act or acts of cruelty on any animal, which result in the death or serious disablement of the animal, commits aggravated cruelty on that animal and is guilty of an offence and is liable to a penalty of not more than, in the case of a natural person, 500 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years or, in the case of a body corporate, 1200 penalty units.
(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) may be liable to the penalty for that offence in addition to or instead of any other penalty to which the person is liable under section 9.

[2] SACStat Magistrates’ Courts: Aggravated Cruelty to an Animal (1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016)