For many people, pets are important members of the family. When a human is the victim of a crime, such as kidnapping or murder, there is recourse to the law and the offender will hopefully get sent to prison for a very long time. However, what avenues can you go down if a family cat, dog, hamster or reptile is intentionally injured or stolen? At the moment, there’s no national law applying to animal rights and welfare. However, all states and territories regulate the welfare of animals in their own state laws.
Animal rights and welfare – State law
Each state has its own act governing the welfare of animals. The issue with most of these acts is that they are primarily in force to protect the welfare of animals (i.e to promote the responsible care of animals and protect animals against unreasonable pain) and don’t provide any legal options for an aggrieved pet owner if their animal is harmed.
Rights under the law
Under Australian law, household pets, whether cats, dogs, guinea pigs or budgerigars, are classed as property. Pets are treated in a similar way to inanimate objects when cases come to court. Recourse is only available if you’ve been hurt in an economic sense.
For example: if an owner takes an offender to court for shooting and maiming the family cat with a sling shot, or if an owner is left with vet bills for their dog’s broken leg, the owner can only recover damages amounting to the value of the pet’s operation.
Australian law is slowly recognising animal rights and offenders have been fined, or even jailed in cases of extreme cruelty.
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