Submission to Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry

The Animal Law Institute recently made a submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture.

On 1 May 2019, the Legislative Council agreed to the following motion:

“That this House requires the Economy and Infrastructure Committee to inquire into, consider and report, by Thursday, 28 November 2019, on the effectiveness of legislation and other measures to prevent and deter activities by unauthorised persons on agricultural and associated industries and in particular, the Committee should —

1. consider —

  • the type and prevalence of unauthorised activity on Victorian farms and related industries, and the application of existing legislation;

  • the workplace health and safety and biosecurity risks, and potential impacts of animal activist activity on Victorian farms, to Victoria’s economy and international reputation;

  • animal activists’ compliance with the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, Livestock Management Act 2010, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986;

  • the civil or criminal liability of individuals and organisations who promote or organise participation in unauthorised animal activism activities;

  • analyse the incidences and responses of other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally; and

  • provide recommendations on how the Victorian Government and industry could improve protections for farmers’ privacy, businesses, and the integrity of our biosecurity system and animal welfare outcomes, whether through law reform or other measures.”

Our Response:

As outlined in our submission, ALI supports measures providing legal protection for individuals and businesses, including appropriate measures to respond to trespass on private property. ALI considers that the current regulatory criminal law framework adequately does this.

ALI also supports animal welfare issues being discussed openly in public forums. While individuals should not be encouraged or permitted to unlawfully enter onto private property, and we in no way condone illegal activity, we do not believe that new or increased penalties will provide a solution to this issue. Instead, we propose that law enforcement agencies are provided with sufficient resources to effectively police animal welfare laws, thereby removing the incentive for private citizens to do so. We also stress the importance of these enforcement agencies being independent, and being seen to be independent by the public (as opposed to having an obvious conflict of interest as Agriculture Victoria does today).

It is critical that adequate mechanisms are put in place to respond proactively where animal cruelty does arise. Our submission outlines our reasoning in more detail and makes a number of key recommendations for the Committee’s consideration.

Letter to Agriculture Victoria

The Animal Law Institute was recently joined by Lawyers for Animals, Voiceless, and NSW Young Lawyers of the Law Society of NSW, to write to Agriculture Victoria in respect of disturbing footage taken at Bridgewater Poultry. The footage from the commercial egg farm captures hens being kicked, thrown and otherwise physically abused.

We believe that this behaviour constitutes both cruelty under section 9 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic), and aggravated cruelty under section 10. Our letter urges the responsible entity to initiate criminal prosecution against the individuals involved in the incident.

Have you purchased a dog or cat from a puppy farm? Holding negligent puppy farmers accountable using the consumer law

17 September 2018

Nala - one of our clients

Nala - one of our clients

Nala (pictured above) is a two year old female beagle. When Nala was born, she was so severely infested with worms and emaciated that she almost died. Luckily for Nala, her human Mum and Dad realised something was wrong soon after they purchased her. They took her to a vet where she got the urgent care that she required. The vet treating said that Nala's flea infestation would have been passed onto her from her fur Mum in utero. Somewhere, Nala's fur Mum continues to suffer – if she is still alive. 

In July 2018, our team took her breeders to court to try and hold them accountable for the cruel consequences of their negligent breeding.

We have filed our case in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the matter has been set down for a hearing on 30 October 2018.

Our case relies on the Australian Consumer Law to argue that breeders who fail to take proper care when breeding animals, should be liable for the vet fees that are later incurred by owners to treat their sick pets. Our case is based on the consumer guarantees and misleading and deceptive conduct. We are aiming to create a legal precedent to discourage negligent breeding and puppy farming in the future.

Our team have put together a Victorian specific fact sheet about how you may be able to use the Australian Consumer Law to hold negligent breeders to account.

You can download the fact sheet here.

The information contained in this factsheet cannot be considered as legal advice as it is intended to provide general information only. It does not take into account your personal circumstances or individual needs. You should seek legal advice from a registered legal practitioner in relation to any legal matters.

Letter to the Minister for Agriculture

The Animal Law Institute recently wrote to the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Jaala Pulford MLC, in respect of footage aired by the ABC at commercial abattoir, Star Poultry Supply in Keysborough, which captures chickens being boiled alive.

Media coverage includes statements from Agriculture Victoria to the effect that a formal cruelty investigation will not be undertaken in respect of the footage at Star Poultry Supply.

The failure by DEDJTR to investigate these allegations under the Act, and lay charges under the Act, in what appear to be blatant contraventions of the cruelty provisions, once again demonstrates why Victoria needs an Independent Office of Animal Welfare with prosecutorial powers. It is a shameful conflict of interest for a department which is entrusted with looking after the interests of agricultural farmers, to also be tasked with enforcing animal welfare laws and regulations.

Dog VCAT Case Settled

By Cobram Courier

A Cobram dog breeder and a Melbourne pet shop were at the centre of a recent VCAT hearing after being sued by a dog owner.

The Animal Law Institute launched a lawsuit last November against the pet shop that sold the dog and the breeder, claiming they should reimburse the owner for the vet bills incurred to treat severe and debilitating hip dysplasia in the dog.

The breeder argued the dog’s owner was only entitled to a refund for the dog.

Both the pet shop and the breeder made applications for the tribunal to dismiss the owner’s lawsuit without the matter proceeding to a full hearing.

Animal Law Institute senior lawyer Amanda Richman said a dog or cat was different to other consumer goods and it wasn’t fair to say the owner should accept a refund or trade-in.

‘‘You can’t replace a loved pet. We believe the Australian Consumer Law allows owners to claim vet fees from breeders and pet suppliers, in some circumstances,’’ she said.

On April 12, VCAT member Linda Rowland rejected the pet shop’s and breeder’s applications to dismiss the case.

Ms Rowland held the case, and the question of whether the dog’s owner should be compensated for veterinary expenses, were of ‘‘sufficient importance’’ and the case should be heard by a senior VCAT member at a full hearing.

The allegations made by the dog’s owner included that both the pet shop and the breeder failed to comply with the consumer guarantees, including the guarantee that goods be of acceptable quality.

The owner also made allegations against the pet shop for misleading and deceptive conduct and breach of contract.

The case was settled confidentially.

Beams Has His Day in Court

Beams (pictured), diagnosed with severe and debilitating hip dysplasia as a puppy, recently had his day in court.


In November 2016, the Animal Law Institute commenced a lawsuit against the pet shop that sold Beams (Mad About Pets Pty Ltd) and Beams’ breeder (Murray River Puppies Pty Ltd) claiming that they should reimburse Beams’ owner for the vet bills that his owner had to pay to treat his medical condition. Jodie Knox, a former president of the Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders, is the sole director of the breeder.

The lawsuit was recently heard by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) at Melbourne.

Both the pet shop and the breeder made applications for the tribunal to dismiss Beams’ owner’s lawsuit without the matter proceeding to a full hearing. The breeder argued that Beams’ owner was only entitled to a refund for Beams.

‘A dog or a cat is different to other consumer goods. It isn’t fair to say that the owner should accept a refund or a trade-in. You can’t replace a loved pet. We say that the Australian Consumer Law allows owners to claim vet fees from breeders and pet suppliers, in some circumstances,’ said Amanda Richman, Senior Lawyer at the Animal Law Institute.

On 12 April 2017, VCAT Member Ms Linda Rowland rejected the pet shop’s and breeder’s applications to dismiss Beams’ case. Member Rowland held that the case, and the question of whether Beams’ owner should be compensated for veterinary expenses, were of ‘sufficient importance’ and the case should be heard by a senior VCAT member at a full hearing.

The allegations made by Beams’ owner included that both the pet shop and the breeder failed to comply with the consumer guarantees, including the guarantee that goods be of acceptable quality. Beams’ owner also made allegations against the pet shop for misleading and deceptive conduct and breach of contract.

The case ultimately settled privately and confidentially.

Lawyers are increasingly using consumer protection law as a way to protect the interests of animals. Earlier this year, the Animal Law Institute similarly relied on consumer protection law in a lawsuit about dolphin captivity against a Coffs Harbour marine park. In recent years, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has prosecuted several Australian egg and meat chicken producers alleging that they engaged in misleading conduct by making certain animal welfare claims in marketing their products.

The Animal Law Institute is a national non-profit community legal centre that is dedicated to protecting animals and advocating for their interests through the Australian legal system. Partial funding for this project was received via a 2016 Grant from Voiceless, the animal protection institute.

Contact: Amanda Richman, Lawyer,, 0425 233 649

Students Debate Legal Protection for Puppies

‘When can a pet owner successfully sue their puppy’s breeder for veterinary fees?’

Law students from across Australia and New Zealand will gather at Monash University in Melbourne over the weekend (16–17 September) to debate the extent of protections available to pet owners under Australian law.

The Australia and New Zealand Intervarsity Moot on Animal Law (ANIMAL) is one of the largest student moots held in Australia and New Zealand. In its fourth year, ANIMAL gives law students the unique opportunity to put their cases to leading lawyers and judges from across Australia.

Fifteen teams from across Australia and New Zealand will take part in this year’s event. Guest judges will include the Honourable Justice Riordan of the Victorian Supreme Court, the Honourable Justice Wilson of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Dr Michelle Sharpe of the Victorian Bar.

‘Animal Law is a growing field of law both in Australia and internationally, and ANIMAL provides law students with the opportunity to learn more about this exciting area of law, while improving their advocacy skills,’ said Aimee Mundt, Director of The Animal Law Institute and Co-Founder of ANIMAL.

‘The moot competition also allows students to learn about the broader issues underlying the treatment of animals in our legal system and wider community’.

The topic of this year’s ANIMAL problem comes at a time where governments are urging consumers to be aware of their rights when purchasing pets from breeders and pet shops.

Registrations are now closed, but spectators are welcome. For any questions, please contact the organisers at

ANIMAL is hosted by the Animal Law Institute, a national non-profit legal centre, and proudly sponsored by Voiceless, the animal protection institute.

Contact: Luisa Consiglio, Director of Community Engagement,

The Bond University winners at ANIMAL 2016

The Bond University winners at ANIMAL 2016

Misleading and deceptive conduct case initiated in Federal Court by ALI on behalf of Australia for Dolphins

The Animal Law Institute (ALI) has started legal action in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia on behalf of Australia for Dolphins against a Coffs Harbour marine park, Dolphin Marine Magic (DMM), for misleading and deceptive conduct. Dolphin Marine Magic currently holds five dolphins in captivity at its marine park.

“Dolphin Marine Magic continues to claim on its website that the animals that they care for are happy and healthy - this includes the five dolphins currently at the park. We say that this claim is misleading as dolphins in captivity suffer stress, behavioural abnormalities, high mortality rates, decreased longevity, breeding problems and their welfare is generally compromised in artificial captive environments” says Malcolm Caulfield, Principal Lawyer at The Animal Law Institute.

“We say that Dolphin Marine Magic has no basis for representing that the dolphins at the Marine Park are happy. We point to the statement by Paige Sinclair, the CEO on the television show The Project on Thursday 30 March where she acknowledged that she personally couldn’t say if the dolphins are happy and healthy.”

It is also alleged that claims by Dolphin Marine Magic that rehabilitation is at the heart of everything it does at its marine park are misleading, as rehabilitation does not make up the majority of the respondent’s activities at the Marine Park.

“In reality, we say that Dolphin Marine Magic has only rehabilitated one dolphin at the marine park between 2010 and 2015.” “Dolphin Marine Magic has been making most of these claims on its website for almost two years”.

It is also alleged that Dolphin Marine Magic is misleading in its claims that:

  • it provides a high standard of care to all of the dolphins at the marine park;
  • its animal enclosures either meet or exceed the size requirements set out in the NSW Standards for the exhibition of animals; and
  • its human and dolphin in-water interactions, which include rides on the dolphins, promote the dolphins’ welfare and wellbeing.

ALI is the only national non-profit community legal centre that is dedicated to protecting animals and advocating for their interests through the Australian legal system.

Contact: Amanda Richman, Volunteer Lawyer,, 0425 233 649.

AMANDA RICHMAN (ALI) and Jordan sosnowski (AFD) at the Federal circuit court to initiate proceedings against Dolphin marine magic

AMANDA RICHMAN (ALI) and Jordan sosnowski (AFD) at the Federal circuit court to initiate proceedings against Dolphin marine magic

Livestock shipping deaths on Bass Strait prompt calls for tougher laws

Tasmania's livestock regulations need an urgent overhaul after more cattle deaths on the Bass Strait crossing, an animal rights lawyer says.

Ten out of the 38 animals on board a ship travelling from King Island to Devonport on Tuesday night were either dead on arrival or needed to be put down due to their condition.

It happened almost one year after 59 cattle died while being transported on a ship travelling between Tasmania and Victoria.

Principal lawyer at the Animal Law Institute Malcolm Caulfield said authorities should consider a review of the type of vessels used to transport the animals, and whether there was a need for independent inspectors.

"It's evident, given that this has now happened again, that there's something seriously wrong with the system and we need to have a published investigation and changes in laws to stop this happening again," he said.

"It may be that what's needed is a review of vessels that are suitable for these voyages, and it may be that we need independent observers to be present at loading at ships in order to be able to decide if it's appropriate that ships should sail.

"At the moment the shipping company makes that decision."

Mr Caulfied said Tasmania's regulations needed an overhaul.

"People have been referring erroneously to the Bass Strait guidelines, shipping guidelines, but they're nothing more than guidelines," he said.

"They are not laws as such, so we need to ramp the whole thing up."

RSPCA Tasmania said it was "tragically ironic" the latest cattle deaths happened almost a year after deaths in similar circumstances.

"It is tragically ironic that this has happened almost 12 months to the day after we lost over 50 head of cattle across Bass Strait and in a way it's kind of sad and kind of frustrating that this continues to happen."

More than 2,000 cattle are shipped between King Island and Devonport each month.

The Department of Primary Industries is investigating the deaths.

Mr Caulfield said the results of federal and state authorities' investigations into last February's incident had not been released.

Source: ABC News

VIC Government Open to Animal Welfare Reforms

Malcolm Caulfield, ALI’s Principal Solicitor, attended one of a series of Animal Welfare Legislation Workshops hosted by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (Department) on 15 February 2017.  

The Workshops give relevant stakeholders the opportunity to raise issues with the Department about reforming the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic).

Mr Caulfield was pleased to hear that the Department was open to Professor David Mellor’s Five Provisions/Welfare Aims paradigm, which “direct[s] welfare management towards activities that both minimise negative experiences or states and promote[s] positive experiences or states”.

‘It is significant that the Department is engaging a well-respected scientist from New Zealand on his views of how one could incorporate positive aspects of animal welfare into a legislative system’ Mr Malcolm says.

For further information about the legislative reform process, please check out the Animal Welfare Reform in Victoria website. 

Puppy farms and cruelty on the agenda at Australia’s first Animal Law Week

18 April 2016

By Liberty Gadd, mojo

Puppy farms and cruelty were among the tough topics tackled in Australia’s first Animal Law Week, with events across five states last week.

The RSPCA Inspectorate team’s role in the successful prosecution of large animal abuse cases often associated with puppy farms was on the agenda at the sold-out Melbourne seminar on Wednesday.

RSPCA Inspectorate manager Allie Jalbert  said some of the most common offences against animals included “cruelty, aggravated cruelty, prohibitive procedures which is your tail docking, your ear cropping … [and] baiting and luring”.

In 2014-2015, the Victorian Inspectorate team, made up of 14 inspectors, investigated 10,708 reported cases of animal cruelty.

Both senior inspector Daniel Bode and Ms Jalbert highlighted the difficulties in mounting a successful animal crimes case, including the fact that the abuse victims are unable to provide testimony.

“A lot of our cases are investigated to prove what has or what hasn’t happened to the animal, because [the animal] can’t tell us,” Ms Jalbert said.

She said animal forensic veterinary medicine, expert witness evidence as well as photographic and video evidence were crucial in successfully prosecuting an animal abuser.

Mr Bode said the prosecution’s primary goal was to obtain a disqualification order against the accused, banning the offender from owning an animal for a prescribed period of time.

Other Animal Law Week presentations tackled topics including how legislation can protect endangered species and a day in the life of an animal lawyer. The event was organised by the Animal Law Institute, which provides pro bono legal advice to animal rights advocates. 

Institute director of community engagement Luisa Consiglio said the institute was inspired by a similar event organised by American not-for-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund, called National Justice for Animals Week.

National Justice for Animals Week has run annually since 2009, raising awareness of criminal animal abuse, including how to report it, and how to work within communities to create stronger laws.

Ms Consiglio said ALI intended Animal Law Week to encourage the legal community to engage with animal rights issues and examine “what we can do to change the laws … to provide a just world for the animals.”

The five Animal Law Week seminars were hosted by various law societies, universities and law firms.

Ms Consiglio said ALI believed the diverse seminar topics would cater to a broad range of interests and audiences.

“Our events are targeted at people who understand or know about the law but we also feel that they are broad enough for people who are interested in animal welfare generally to attend as well.”

Ms Consiglio said ALI was hopeful Animal Law Week would become a staple in the organisation’s events calendar.

ALI joined the National Association of Community Legal Centres in 2015.

Baiting Targeted at Dogs in Melbourne's West

9 April 2016

Anastasia Smietanka, Co-Founder of the Animal Law Institute, was interviewed this week in The Age about the legal implications of ‘potentially fatal bait traps’ targeted at dogs in Melbourne’s west.

About 12 fish hooks were reportedly found baited in kabana sausage in the Hoppers Cross area earlier this month.

‘Hoppers Crossing resident Werner Bernherd and his wife were walking their two dogs,’ Schetzer reported, 'when they were approached by a women who warned them about the baits.’

He told News Limited that the women had collected some of the hooks but the couple remained worried that there could be more.

‘They're dogs so they walk ahead of us and would have gobbled them up without a second thought,’ Mr Bernherdt said. ‘Why anyone would do it is just beyond me.’

Wyndham Council was notified and the remaining hooks were removed.

Smietanka said those responsible could be charged with animal cruelty.

To find out more about what you can do if you witness animal cruelty, please read our legal fact sheets here.

Photo courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur,

Photo courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur,

New laws seek to protect animal industries against whistleblowers who reveal cruel practices

June 16, 2015

Last Friday, the Senate Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport adopted the animal industry's position in favour of heavily penalising those who monitor and report animal cruelty based on undercover monitoring. The Committee recommended that the Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015 be passed by Parliament.

The Animal Law Institute (ALI), Australia's only national community legal centre dedicated to animal law, believes that the Bill is designed to ensure that systematic cases of animal cruelty, such as the recent greyhound live-baiting scandal, are hidden from public view.

Dr Malcolm Caulfield, Principal Lawyer of ALI, stated that "these 'Ag-Gag' laws have the sole purpose of deterring individuals and organisations from exposing to the public evidence of animal cruelty.

"This is an attempt to protect the interests of animal use industries, and there is not a shred of evidence that can be interpreted otherwise.

"What is apparent is that undercover reporting of animal abuse reflects a much greater problem, which is the failure of the current legal system to property monitor large-scale commercial animal use.

"If this proposed law had been in place, the recent exposé into live baiting within the greyhound industry would never have been possible, nor would we have uncovered the horrifying mistreatment of thousands of pigs, chickens and ducks in numerous animal facilities", Dr Caulfield said.

After the release of the Committee's findings, ALI now challenges the Australian Senate to vote in favour of animal welfare and vote against the Bill.

"ALI believes that rather than seeking to shoot the messengers, Parliament should be focusing on ways to ensure this animal cruelty is detected and punished. A major step in the right direction would be a national, independent, Animal Welfare Commissioner, tasked to bring animal welfare laws and enforcement into line across the country," Dr Caulfield said.

ALI will now continue lobbying Senators to ensure that the proposed Bill is not passed through Parliament.

"We are happy to work with any Senator who wants greater protections for animals and better provisions for animal welfare," Dr Caulfield said.

Bond University wins Australia's first animal law moot

Bond University on the Gold Coast has won the country's first animal law moot, organised by animal protection institute Voiceless.

A law moot simulates a court hearing, allowing law students to approach a case, research the law, prepare written submissions and present oral argument.

Eleven teams from across Australia took part in the moot at Bond University last month, including the University of NSW, the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland and the University of New England.

The teams debated a hypothetical scenario about live export, moot organiser Anastasia Smietanka said.

The question involved the hypothetical grant of a live-export licence by the federal government. 

Two directors of the live exporter had been charged with animal cruelty offences two years previously following an investigation by a lobby group, the Animal Defence Coalition, which revealed that the animals on board ships suffered in shocking conditions.  

Each team had a chance to represent the lobby group that was challenging the licence grant, and the federal government department. 

The students debated the same hypothetical case from each side during each round.

Legal arguments made by the students included that the grant of the licence was unreasonable and that the department failed to take into consideration relevant facts in granting the licence. 

Every team took part in three preliminary rounds and then, via a knock-out style competition, certain teams progressed to quarter- and semi-finals, and then the grand final.

The teams were judged on the strength of their written and oral arguments, Voiceless legal counsel Emmanuel Giuffre said. 

The criteria included clarity of speech, the rationality of the oral and written arguments, maintaining good posture, maintaining eye contact, keeping within the allotted time, and complying with formal court etiquette and procedure, he said. 

As the judges asked questions on the facts of the case and the legal arguments put forward, the strength and accuracy of the teams' responses were also judged.

The teams that made it to the grand final were from Bond University, which represented the government, and the University of Tasmania, which represented the lobby group. Presiding judges for the grand final were Justice Hugh Fraser of the Queensland Court of Appeal, Justice David Boddice of the Queensland Supreme Court and barrister Chris George.

The judges noted the high quality of the legal argument and analysis from both finalists but declared Bond University the winner.

The Voiceless Australian-New Zealand Intervarsity Moot on Animal Law (ANIMAL) is the  only animal law moot in Australia and New Zealand. 

The aim of the weekend was for students to understand how animals are treated under the live animal export trade, Australia's animal welfare laws and the failings of those laws. 

The moot provided the law students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge of animal law while honing their written and oral advocacy skills, Aimee Mundt, project manager for ANIMAL, said. 

Ondine Sherman, co-founder and managing director of Voiceless, said: "This [was] a unique and exciting opportunity for law students and for the progression of animal law in Australia. 

"When Voiceless started 10 years ago, one law school taught the subject. Today animal law is being taught at 14 universities with a number of law firms practising in this important area of law."

As part of the program, there were optional Q&A forums with senior animal law academics and panel discussions involving legal experts in the field, including Mr Giuffre, legal counsel for Animals Australia Shatha Hamade and PhD candidate in animal welfare regulation Jed Goodfellow.