Companion animals are a great gift to human beings. In response to the joy, the much needed companionship and the health benefits that ownership of an animal entails, we all have a duty in the community to ensure that all animals, not just the animals we personally own, are cared for and protected from harm. It is also important to remember that animals are sentient beings, meaning that they feel emotions and have the ability to feel pain.

Well, you may ask, what legal protection is afforded to animals in Victoria? How can we protect, for example, our much loved canine companions?

Dogs are, as with any other domestic animal, entitled to live a comfortable life, free from abuse. Pursuant to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (“the Act”) it is an offence to allow your animal to experience unreasonable pain or suffering or to fail to meet their daily needs, for example access to proper and sufficient food and water, veterinary treatment and shelter.

All dog owners should be aware of the specific health, diet and exercise requirements of their particular breed of dog, so that their dog’s needs are met. The Code of Practice for the Private Keeping of Dogs (Vic) (“the Code”), made pursuant to the Act should be read by all dogs owners and members of the community, as it sets out in detail the minimum standards required for the ownership and keeping of dogs in Victoria.

A major issue that many dogs face is that they fail to receive adequate shelter and housing. It is an offence pursuant to the Act to confine your dog in an area where the confinement is likely to cause unreasonable pain and suffering. In addition, the Code sets out certain requirements for the housing of dogs. For example, a dog should always have shelter and protection from sun, wind and rain and must not be confined to an area smaller than 15 square metres if it is 70cm or taller and 10 square metres if it is between 40cm – 70cm tall. Furthermore, the Code specifies that a dog must be able to urinate and defecate away from areas in which it rests and for its faeces to be removed daily.

What Can You Do?

If you suspect that someone you know is failing to meet the needs of their dog, contact the RSPCA and report it. The RSPCA is a non-governmental organisation responsible for the investigation and prosecution of cruelty to companion animals in Victoria. If an individual is found guilty of an offence under the Act they may face a fine of up to $14,656.80 for each offence and a fine of up to $73,284.00 if the offender is a corporation. The RSPCA relies on donations from the public to conduct their investigations and prosecutions, and as a non-governmental organisation, the RSPCA does not receive government funding.

This article provides information that is general in nature and not a substitute for legal advice. Please contact Rudstein Kron Lawyers if you wish to obtain legal advice for your personal situation.