RSPCA Inspectors - How They Work With Livestock
RSPCA WA Inspectors operate under the Animal Welfare Act (2002) and their work involves commercial livestock.
RSPCA WA Inspectors receive around 16,000 reports of animal cruelty each year (40-50 per day) with many leading to investigations. The cruelty reports can relate to a wide range of animals including domestic pets, animals used in sport and recreation, wildlife and commercial livestock. Prosecutions are only a last resort when preventable cruelty has occurred. Last year, no prosecutions involved commercial livestock or farm animals.
If there is a report of cruelty, our Inspectors have to follow up and will regularly visit the property. As part of any investigation, they may also need to take photographs. Sometimes, this can lead to misunderstandings with the farmers involved who may feel unhappy about Inspectors on their property. But, it’s important to note that the vast majority of complaints investigated are resolved with a single visit to the farm with no reason for further contact.
Also, many complaints are received from well-meaning members of the public with little knowledge of farming. Some of these complaints are managed through simply educating the complainant on basic animal welfare and how livestock are farmed.
The type of livestock complaints with which Inspectors become involved can generally be categorised into three types. The categories are based on actions taken by the Inspectors who respond to a complaint.
Type 1 – General advice.
The majority of cases fall into this category. The complaint is usually made by members of the public who are visiting farms or are driving past. Many of these cases are reported during school holidays when people from the city are touring through country areas. The most common report is about thin and starving cows. The complainant has previously driven past a herd of cattle and believed the bonier topline of the dairy cows they saw further down the road to be a cruelty issue.
In cases like this, where no welfare issues are found, the Inspectors go back to the complainant and spend considerable time advising them of normal farming practices. Here are pictures of animals that were the subject of cruelty complaints where no issue was found and obviously no action was taken against the owner.
Type 2 – Warning – verbal or written direction.
These complaints usually come from other farmers, but sometimes members of the public too. In these cases, there is an animal welfare issue or a situation that might lead to welfare compromise, neglect or cruelty if not attended to.
RSPCA Inspectors will visit the property and speak with the owner to assess the circumstances. In some cases it may be necessary for the Inspector to issue a Direction Notice, a legally enforceable set of instructions.
Recent Direction Notices have included orders for shearing sheep and alpacas. In other cases, owners have been directed to provide feed for sheep, cattle or horses and work to a management plan set up by either RSPCA WA Inspectors or staff from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
In this case, pictured, a report was received about unshorn sheep. The Inspector investigated and asked the farmer to arrange for the sheep to be shorn. Subsequent visits found that this had not happened and the farmer was given a Direction Notice requiring that the sheep be shorn. These sheep were shorn, but only after the notice was issued.
Type 3 – Prosecution.
These are the cases in which preventable animal cruelty has occurred. They are the least common of all the Inspector cases and the reports are usually made by other farmers who have the knowledge of proper farming practices and know that this is without doubt animal cruelty, NOT normal farming practice.
In one case this year, a Wheatbelt farmer was prosecuted and found guilty of cruelty to sheep on his property. RSPCA Inspectors attended the property following a complaint from a member of the public regarding a large number of sheep that were dead or dying. With assistance from local vets, they we able to rescue a number of sheep that were barely alive but many others had to be destroyed.
The farmer was fined $50,000 and ordered to pay costs under Section 55(2)(f) of the Animal Welfare Act (2002). The fines are paid directly to the State Government.