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.