Convictions soar in animal cruelty cases

Adelaide Now, July 6 2012

ANIMAL protection authorities are striking back hard at the worst abusers with a four-fold rise in prosecutions in five years.

But the RSPCA is facing a new challenge in the increasing abandonment of animals, which it says is partly caused by rising financial pressures on households.

Figures released to The Advertiser by the RSPCA show there were 2200 public reports of ill-treatment of animals in the last financial year.

Of those, 69 alleged offenders were prosecuted and all but two cases resulted in convictions.

This is a big jump on the 17 prosecutions recorded in 2007-08.

Despite the court successes, the number of animals suffering abuse remains staggeringly high. Among the thousands of cases reported last financial year are allegations a 30kg german shepherd was kept locked in a galah cage measuring 70cm by 70cm by 90cm. Inspectors are also investigating decapitation of a lamb and the deaths of two six-week-old labrador-cross puppies in a sealed garbage bag.

RSPCA chief inspector Simon Richards said the “significant increase” in prosecutions was a result of changes to the Animal Welfare Act in 2008. Under the new Act, fines and prison terms were doubled to a maximum four-year jail term or a $50,000 fine, which encouraged the public to come forward.

“Our penalties are among the highest in the country (and) our prosecution rate is higher than any other state,” Mr Richards said.

“The tougher penalties indicate the public opinion on animal cruelty and how abhorrent it is, and have increased people’s awareness.”

Although investigative techniques had “vastly improved” in recent years, thanks to forensic science, the RSPCA prosecutes just 3 per cent of reported cases.

“A prosecution is not a win for the RSPCA – we’re about prevention,” Mr Richards said. “A small proportion of  our cruelty reports result in prosecution and, obviously, there’s an enormous number that don’t – we resolve those issues through education (of alleged offenders). Prosecution is for the worst of the worst … ”

University of SA psychology lecturer Dr Alan Campbell said cruelty could be motivated by revenge or a misplaced sense of “fun”.

“Animals are easy targets … for a period of time they can get off on the killing and when that happens, consequences just go out the window,” he said. “For others, it’s to demonstrate violence (or) the power one has over a family. Killing a family pet demonstrates that (a person) can kill a family.”

Neglect cases, he said, were often borne out of ignorance.

“There may be an understanding that animals can fend for themselves,” he said.

“They believe you should be able to leave them in paddocks to eat grass, or dogs and cats in a pen and chuck some food in there.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Animal cruelty, RSPCA SA, SA

One response to “Convictions soar in animal cruelty cases

  1. companionanimalnews

    This is the paper’s editorial, 7th July 2012
    “IT is behaviour most of us struggle to understand. Wanton cruelty directed against defenceless animals.
    It can only be regarded as despicable, yet a rising number of South Australians are seemingly guilty of such abhorrent behaviour.
    Last year The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals prosecuted 69 cases of animal cruelty, winning 67. It won 17 in 2007-08.
    Despite the diligent work the 69 cases represent only 3 per cent of the 2200 cases reported to it last year.
    The rise in prosecutions has coincided with the changes to the Animal Welfare Act in 2008 by the former Rann government.
    The Act doubled penalties to a $40,000 fine or four years in jail for causing the death of animals. It also gave greater power to animal inspectors to investigate intensive farming operations, puppy farms, circuses and dog pounds.
    Part of the RSPCA’s dilemma when it comes to prosecuting more cases may come back to funding. The organisation only pursues the cases it judges are the worst of the worst and mostly tries to change behaviour through inspection and education.
    However, there is no doubt the RSPCA is becoming adept at doing more with less. The organisation prosecutes the vast majority of animal cruelty cases in South Australia, but the RSPCA’s funding has not kept pace with the demands on its resources.
    Its annual funding from the Government increased from $500,000 to $660,000 at the time the Act was changed. It stayed at $660,000 for three years until the State Government gave it another boost last year, taking the allocation to $717,000.
    Over the past three years the RSPCA says the cost of enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has increased from around $1.8 million to $2.5 million.
    These are difficult times for the State budget. Every penny of spending is closely scrutinised by Treasurer Jack Snelling.
    But if the State wants to further encourage the RSPCA’s good work in cracking down on cruelty to animals in South Australia he may need to reconsider how much money is being directed to one of our most worthwhile operations.”

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