Animal cruelty penalty to triple

THE maximum penalty for people who deliberately and unlawfully inflict severe pain or suffering on animals will more than triple in most cases.

  The changes comes under new proposed laws approved today by State Cabinet.

  A new offence of serious animal cruelty, with a maximum penalty of 7 years' jail, will apply to anyone who inflicts severe pain or suffering on an animal where that is the deliberate intent.

  Premier Anna Bligh said recent cases of appalling animal cruelty had rightly provoked community outrage and highlighted the need for stiffer penalties.

  Ms Bligh said the crackdown had been prompted by a series of attacks on wild, domestic and farm animals, such as Frodo - an orphaned koala joey that was shot, Sticky - a puppy whose eyes were glued shut, and the north Queensland mare beaten so badly that she had to be put down.

  "Most cases are currently prosecuted under the Animal Care and Protection Act, which provides a maximum penalty of $100,000 or two years' imprisonment, she said.

  "The new provision will be inserted into the Criminal Code with a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment to better reflect the gravity of serious animal cruelty offences.

  "A civilised society has an obligation to protect animals from those who take pleasure in inflicting pain on domestic pets, commercial livestock and native fauna.

  "The new offence will send a very clear message that a conviction for serious animal cruelty deserves and demands appropriate punishment."

  Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Paul Lucas said the Criminal Code already provided for up to three years in jail for a person who unlawfully kills, maims or wounds an animal 'capable of being stolen', and up to seven years where the death or injury was inflicted on commercial livestock.

  "The problem with this provision is that it's included under damage to property offences, which are of limited relevance to many animal cruelty cases," he said.

  "It doesn't apply to wild animals at all, because they aren't legally owned by anyone and consequently can't be stolen at law.

  "Nor does it apply to domestic pets or farm livestock where the suffering is inflicted by the animal's owner.

  "The new law will plug that gap in the Criminal Code and ensure justice can be done by increasing the maximum penalty from three to seven years' jail for serious offences against all animals.

  "Very importantly, that penalty will be based not on an animal's monetary value as property, but on our moral obligation to protect it from wilful cruelty."

  Mr Lucas said animal cruelty was often a precursor to serious crimes against people.

  FBI research has shown that 45% of homicides are committed by perpetrators with a history of cruelty to animals.

  Professor Elenore Gullone and collaborators from Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, researched the links between animal abuse and domestic (or family) violence.

  They found that in women seeking refuge from abuse, 56% stated that their partner had abused or killed one or more of their pets.

  Mr Lucas said the proposed amendments were expected to be introduced to Parliament by July.


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