Queensland courts ban offenders from owning animals

Media release

Monday, 19 August 2019

Queensland Courts have banned 260 offenders from owning animals, a new report by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council revealed today.

The new Sentencing Spotlight on Animal welfare offences analysed 13 years of sentencing data shedding light on the penalties imposed.

In Queensland, courts can issue a prohibition order banning a person from owning an animal if convicted for an animal welfare offence. The ban can be for life or a specified period.

The report found 19 permanent bans and the average length for the remaining 241 was 3 years.

The use of banning orders has increased dramatically in more recent times. In 2011­—12 a banning order was made in only 25.7 per cent of cases, this rose to 50.7 per cent in 2017—18.

The report analyses sentencing data for offences against animals including serious animal cruelty in the Criminal Code (Qld) and offences in the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld). Offences range from the most serious intentional offences to breaches of duty of care.

In the reporting period 2005—06 to 2017—18 there were 1,115 cases, involving 1,020 offenders and 2,416 charges.

In 853 cases offences against animals were the Most Serious Offence (MSO), in the other 262 cases the MSO involved assault (21.8% or 57 cases), unlawful entry (16.0% or 42 cases), or property damage (10.3% or  27 cases).

The majority of offenders were male (66.7%) with almost half of these sentenced for the more serious offence of animal cruelty. The majority of female offenders (77.2%) were sentenced for breach of duty offences.

Age of offenders varied greatly, the youngest offender 11, the oldest 81. However, only 24 were young offenders (aged 10–17).

A fine was the most common penalty, the highest for an individual was $25,000 and $55,000 for a corporation.

Custodial sentences were reserved for the most serious offending, 76 offenders received a sentence of imprisonment. 2.5 years the longest for actual imprisonment and 3 years for a suspended sentence.

Council Chair John Robertson said the Sentencing Spotlight provided the community with important insights into the operation of sentencing for this type of offending.

“This report analyses sentencing for offences ranging from the most serious intentional cruelty through to less serious breaches of duty of care,” Mr Robertson said.

“It provides the community important data on sentence orders, offender characteristics and recidivism.

“Our pets are much loved members of our families, so it is very distressing when we hear about people mistreating animals. The offence data includes livestock, which are often overlooked when we think about animal cruelty.

“With such a board range of offending you would expect to see a wide range of sentences,” he said.

“The community has no tolerance for this kind of offending. A significant increase in sentenced offenders from 2014 may indicate increased community awareness of this type of offending, which could result from advocacy from animal welfare organizations like the RSPCA.  As a result it may be that people are more likely to report offenders, and it may also indicate the increasing seriousness with which the community views these offences.

“Prohibition orders are not only a punishment option, but a mechanism to protect our animals.

“The steep increase in use would indicate the courts see prohibition orders as an effective tool to combat this offending behaviour.”

Offenders were typically:

  • Male
  • An average age of 36 years
  • Sentenced on a plea of guilty

The regional breakdown for 2005—06 to 2017—18:

  • Far North Queensland – 76 offenders
  • North Queensland – 93 offenders
  • Central Queensland – 107 offenders
  • North Coast – 145 offenders
  • Darling Downs/ South-West –  101 offenders
  • Metropolitan – 203 offenders
  • South East – 128 offenders

Read the full Sentencing Spotlight on animal welfare offences (PDF, 1007.0 KB). This regular court data series is part of the Council’s role to inform, engage and advise on sentencing matters.

Media contact

Adam Golebiowski
Phone: 0459 887 077
Email: media@sentencingcouncil.qld.gov.au