Cruelty Reports Involving Commercial Livestock
From time to time, farmers ask how reports about animal cruelty are made and what happens next.
Here is a brief outline.
Animal cruelty can be investigated by RSPCA WA Inspectors, the Livestock Compliance Unit (LCU) at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), by WA police, appointed officers from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions along with appointed Fisheries Officers and local government rangers.
However, RSPCA is the principle receiver of and responder to the majority of reports of animal cruelty in WA via a 24-hour call centre. The RSPCA receives reports about all kinds of animals including commercial livestock, non-commercial livestock and companion animals.
The LCU of DPIRD and RSPCA WA work together on commercial livestock complaints under a MOU with DPIRD. All urgent critical incidents what could lead to a prosecution stay with the RSPCA Inspectors and routine inspections go to the LCU at DPIRD.
This means RSPCA WA Inspectors are the principle investigators of cruelty complaints involving commercial livestock and, as a result, they are often on farms. However, it’s noteworthy that the overwhelming majority of cruelty investigations do not lead to prosecution.
For example, in the financial year ended 30 June 2018, RSPCA WA received 19, 061 calls about animal cruelty to the call centre. Of those, the inspectors responded to 6,057 complaints. These consisted of rescues, cruelty concerns about livestock, domestic animals and injured wildlife.
Approximately 20 to 25% of calls and complaints about cruelty related to commercial livestock.
Out of all the cruelty reports, 763 direction notices were given to people in charge of animals requiring them to deal with various welfare issues.
An example of a direction notice is this sheep (pictured right) which had not been shorn for many years and would have suffered a great deal of discomfort from overheating in summer and waterlogging in winter. During the year, inspectors have noticed an increase in reports of sheep with overgrown fleeces. In this case, the owner complied with the direction given by the inspector and the sheep was shorn soon after.
During the year, one prosecution involved commercial livestock. In this case, sheep were dead and dying due to lack of feed and water.
Why, some might ask, are there so many investigations of cruelty reports and so few prosecutions?
Prosecution is a last resort and only when cruelty has already happened. With commercial livestock, reports about cruelty come from a variety of sources including the general public and farmers concerned about the welfare of livestock on neighbouring properties. RSPCA inspectors are required to investigate most complaints.
In the majority of cases, when investigating complaints from the general public, inspectors find there is no breach of animal welfare laws and the complaint has arisen due to misunderstanding about normal farm animal management. The inspectors then inform the complainant that all is well on the farm and provide information about farm animal management. The inspectors find most farmers are pleased with the end result, particularly the subsequent education about farming received by the person who complained.
And, if there is a welfare issue that can be resolved, the people responsible for the animals/s usually comply with the directions given by the inspector.