Aggravated Animal Cruelty

In Victoria, Aggravated Animal Cruelty is found in section 10 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. It is a criminal offence that is committed by a person who caused death or serious injury to an animal. The death or serious injury may have been the result of abuse, torture, being driven over, confinement, neglect, or poisoning.

Have you been accused of Aggravated Animal Cruelty?

Police Interview
Have the police contacted you about your possible involvement in the death or serious injury to an animal? It is extremely important you seek legal advice if so. The police will want to interview you and what you say, or don’t say, in the interview can have limit how you run your case in court.

One of our experienced defence lawyers can advise you on how to best handle the interview process so that you do not harm any defences you want to run in court.

We recommend you contact our office for legal advice before attending a police interview to make sure you are prepared for the interview.

Pleading Not Guilty
If you wish to contest an allegation of Aggravated Animal Cruelty, we can represent you through the court process. The advantage of using a firm which specializes in criminal defence work is that we know how to devise a defence strategy for you and how to challenge the admissibility of prosecution evidence.

Our lawyers are pro-active and will ask for the full brief of evidence and look for inconsistencies which can be emphasised at court. Our lawyers will also look for evidence which shows the prosecution is wrong which investigators may have over-looked.

Pleading Guilty
If you wish to plead guilty to a charge of Aggravated Animal Cruelty, we can advise on the likely outcome we can achieve for you. We will advise you what needs to be done to have the best shot. This involves not only ensuring the charges and police summary are correct, but also gathering information about you to explain to the court why the offending came about. Offending can always be explained and put into context.

Sentencing outcomes in the Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria Sentencing Statistics Pie Chart for Commit Aggravated Cruelty to an Animal, Resulting in Death or Serious Disablement in the Magistrates' Court Between 2018 and 2021
Which court will the case be heard in?
Aggravated animal cruelty will generally be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

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 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.

Elements of the offence
The following elements must be established in court for an accused to be proven guilty of Aggravated Animal Cruelty:

  • The accused committed an act or acts of cruelty on any animal.
  • The said cruelty resulted in the death or serious disablement of the animal.
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.
  • Was someone else taking care of your animal at the time that it suffered abuse?
  • Serious injury caused to the animal was in the course of defending yourself from the animal.
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 you might be asked in these cases include:
  • Were you the owner of the animal at the time it suffered cruelty?
  • What kind of suffering did the animal endure?
  • Did the cruelty result in the death or serious injury of the animal?
Maximum penalty for section 10 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986
The maximum penalty for Aggravated Animal Cruelty (s10 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986) in the case of a natural person is 500 penalty units ($82,6101) or imprisonment for 2 years or, in the case of a body corporate, 1200 penalty units ($198,264).

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.

Other information about Aggravated Animal Cruelty

[1]The value of each penalty unit will change on 30 June 2020.