Animal Cruelty and Jail Time

Animal Cruelty Animal Welfare Animals Legislation Pets Queensland Law RSPCA Inspectors Posted May 7, 2021
Seriously, what does someone have to do to an animal to land themselves a bed in jail?
This was the question I asked after last week’s case involving horrific acts of cruelty to an innocent echidna by an international student at a university campus.

Well to some extent, I know the answer to this question already. 

Recently a man was jailed for beating his puppy in a fit of rage and breaking its leg, because he said he was angry when the pup bit him. Another man was sentenced to imprisonment when he drowned his neighbour’s dog, enraged after the dog had just killed his pet chickens. 

So we know that losing your temper and committing acts of cruelty towards animals, can mean jail time. That seems fair. 

The reality is, that most cases of animal cruelty take place after some kind of catalyst, and are better described as ‘brain explosions’ by otherwise ordinary people. The dog barks, kills chooks, digs holes, or chews shoes, or the cat scratches, bites or misses the litter tray - and people lose their temper. 

A man was also jailed recently for his involvement in organised dog fighting. 

So we know that taking part in cruel and unlawful activities with animals, can land you in prison. That too seems reasonable, given the community’s outrage and disgust when it comes to blood sports that exploit animals for human enjoyment. 

But what about the cruelty cases that cause most of us a different, more unsettling kind of concern? Cases that involve the kind of inhuman behaviour that is quite frankly alarming, and not easily explained by reference to any normal standards of conduct in our society? 

We know about the undeniable link between people who offend against animals, and people who offend against people. 

Those who neglect children will often also neglect pets, and those who lose their temper and react with violence, will usually do so with people and animals alike. 

But it’s the other kind of cruelty that may act as a predictor of human behaviour, that leaves us feeling more uneasy than outraged. Everyone has read the stories of sadistic serial killers who begin their offending by torturing animals, before moving on to human victims. 

When someone snatches a defenceless wild animal from the environment where it should be safe, and without provocation or explanation, inflicts pain and misery on that animal in the interests of sheer curiosity, should that offender be imprisoned? Or is there perhaps a more compelling need for rehabilitation and treatment, rather than general deterrence and a short stint in a cell? 

This echidna case was a different case of cruelty. There was no loss of temper. No brain explosion. No mental health issues. No rationalisation. It was prolonged, calculated, gratuitous and deliberate cruelty, that was unprovoked, unexplained, and unpredictable.

Surely, this was the kind of case that was envisaged by government when they increased penalties for animal cruelty offences several years ago? 

When we think about tougher penalties for cruelty we think about jail. But perhaps we have to shift our thinking. Sometimes when these offenders escape jail, we might need to stop and ask whether the court might have got it right. Maybe these special cases need a rehabilitative approach, rather than a prison cell, if we are any chance of curbing the disturbing behaviour and protecting animals and people in the future. 

But I can understand why the community would feel safer, if that could just happen from inside a jail cell. 

Harsher Penalties

Do you think there should be harsher penalties in place for these types of offenders?

tracey jackson

Tracey Jackson
Share this article
Find the perfect pet