Animal cruelty is a serious criminal offence.

Penalties for offences of animal cruelty are set out in section 19(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2002

If found guilty of cruelty to any animal, the minimum penalty per offence is a $2000 fine, with a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and imprisonment for up to 5 years.

Penalties are determined by the court and handed down at the court's discretion. Magistrates determine the penalties that they consider appropriate based upon the evidence presented in court by the prosecution and offender. Magistrates have regard to the maximum sentence fixed by law, the standards of sentencing customarily observed with respect to the offence, the place which the criminal conduct occupies on a scale of seriousness for these offences, and the personal circumstances of the offender. RSPCA WA does not determine penalties.

Section 55 of the Act allows a court to impose additional orders against the offender that may include:

  • prohibition of contact with or being in control of animals for a period of time determined by the courts
  • forfeiture of ownership of any animal to the Crown
  • repayment of legal, veterinary and animal care costs.

These additional orders can be made to protect the welfare, safety and health of an animal, a group of animals or animals in general.

Although the statutory penalties for animal cruelty are found in the Animal Welfare Act 2002, the Act must be read with Part 5 and especially section 42 of the Sentencing Act 1995. It is the Sentencing Act 1995 which allows other penalties, such as a suspended fine, a community based order, or a term of suspended imprisonment, to be imposed for offences of animal cruelty.