Public calls for more proactive pet laws

Public opinion is shifting towards a more proactive approach to animal welfare rather than a reactive approach to animal cruelty.

Experts from the University of Adelaide have asked the Australian public about their perception of animal cruelty penalties.

“We found that the vast majority of respondents support prohibiting offenders from owning animals,” says study leader, PhD student Rochelle Morton of the University of Washington’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences. ‘Adelaide.

“Animal abuse is an issue that provokes strong emotional reactions within communities.

“The nature of animal welfare law reform in Australia has generally been attributed to a growing alignment with ‘community’ expectations which implies that the community has the power to drive legislative change.

“Yet, despite this claim, there has been no publicly available information revealing the nature of these ‘expectations’ or the methodology used to determine the public’s position.

“Based on past sociological research, as well as legal reforms that have taken place to increase maximum penalties for animal welfare offences, it is likely that the community expects stiffer penalties for offenses .”

A total of 2152 people from across the country participated in the survey.

Dr Alexandra Whittaker from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences worked on the study which was published in the journal Frontiers in Animal Science.

“This study suggests that there is greater support for preventing animal cruelty through increased enforcement rather than punishing perpetrators of animal cruelty with harsher sentences.” Dr Alexandra Whittaker from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Adelaide.

“While we found that 50% of people wanted increased penalties, almost 80% favored increasing the number of prosecutions,” she said.

In 2009, an Australian study found that 60% of people favored tougher sentences.

“We interpreted the survey results to mean that the public favors more cases in court (more enforcement) rather than the court handing down larger fines and prison sentences. This suggests that the enforcement element may be more important than the sanction element for the public,” says Dr Whittaker.

In 2020-21, the RSPCA successfully prosecuted 426 animal cruelty cases in Australian courts. Currently, penalties for animal cruelty offenses vary from state to state, but all include jail time and fines. Prison sentences range from one year in the Northern Territory to five years in WA and Tasmania and maximum fines for individuals of $15,700 in the Northern Territories and $287,500 in Queensland. Fines for corporations can be over a million dollars depending on the jurisdiction.

“This study suggests that there is greater support for preventing animal cruelty through increased enforcement rather than punishing animal cruelty perpetrators with harsher sentences,” says Dr. Whittaker.

“This potentially indicates a shift in public opinion towards a more proactive approach to animal welfare law enforcement, rather than a reactive approach to animal cruelty.”