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Animal cruelty laws in New South Wales are outlined in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 and the Crimes Act 1900. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act applies to a wide range of animals in the region, encompassing various offenses related to animal mistreatment. If someone is seeking to make an AVO against you, it is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of specialised defence lawyers with a wealth of experience in effectively defending AVO applications. These transgressions can be probed by entities such as the New South Wales Police, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), or the Animal Welfare League (AWL). The RSPCA is empowered to rescue animals subjected to cruelty and has the authority to access private properties if there is a reasonable suspicion of animal mistreatment. Nevertheless, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act includes several defences that restrict the application of its criminal penalties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the options below to learn the answers to frequently asked questions about AVO (Apprehended Violence Orders).

An animal means a member of a vertebrate species including any—

(i)  amphibian, or

(ii)  bird, or

(iii)  fish, or

(iv)  mammal (other than a human being), or

(v)  reptile, or 

(vi) a crustacean but only when at a building or place (such as a restaurant) where food is prepared or offered for consumption by retail sale in the building or place.

An act of cruelty committed upon an animal includes a reference to any act or omission as a consequence of which the animal is unreasonably, unnecessarily or unjustifiably—

(a)  beaten, kicked, killed, wounded, pinioned, mutilated, maimed, abused, tormented, tortured, terrified or infuriated,

(b)  over-loaded, over-worked, over-driven, over-ridden or over-used,

(c)  exposed to excessive heat or excessive cold, or

(d)  inflicted with pain.

Some examples can include:

  • Abandoning an animal including; leaving an animal in a vehicle on a hot day, for an extended period of time.
  • Docking tails or cropping ears of a dog, declawing cats or branding;
  • Failing to seek treatment for a pet that is injured, distressed or in pain.
  • Failing to provide adequate food and water for an animal or pet.

Section 24 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act sets out the defences available to persons against any of the animal cruelty offences under that act if the act was done:

    • Engaging in animal research;
    • Prepping animals for human consumption in a manner that avoids unnecessary pain or aligns with religious principles;
    • Performing procedures such as lopping, tailing, branding, or earmarking on livestock without causing undue pain to the animals;
    • Conducting activities such as hunting, shooting, snaring, trapping, catching, or capturing animals;
    • Feeding a predatory animal in a manner essential for its survival.


It’s generally advisable to exercise your right to remain silent and consult with a lawyer before speaking with the prosecutors. Your lawyer can provide you with advice on how to interact with law enforcement to protect your rights.

The relevant prosecution body usually exercise their discretion in seeking costs for the prosecution of a matter at the conclusion of the court proceedings if a person is sentence upon a finding of guilt, or a plea of guilty.

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