So you’ve witnessed a form of animal abuse or neglect … what do you do now?

September 20, 2018

Witnessing the cruel treatment or blatant neglect of an innocent animal is hugely distressing – but rest assured, you’re not completely helpless in this situation.

As part of our Combat Cruelty campaign, we’ve exposed the horror of animal abuse and neglect occurring in our state’s own backyard to help animal lovers like you understand the scale in South Australia. And these are just the cases that made it to court.

So how can you help? And if you see something upsetting, what do you do next?

RSPCA South Australia’s new Combat Cruelty campaign.

You have the power to help us prevent animal suffering

Our mission statement is to “prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection” – and that’s definitely something you can help us with.

Animal cruelty includes overt and intentional acts of violence toward animals, but also animal neglect or failure to provide for the welfare of an animal.

In fact, more than 80% of the 70 cases our legal team prosecuted in the 2017/18 financial year related to chronic neglect rather than deliberate cruelty. Like the case of Cooper, Ruby and Ralph, three dogs simply left to starve in a Port Noarlunga South backyard.

Cooper, Ralph and Ruby when seized
Read more: Cooper, Ruby and Ralph’s story.

Remember, you have the power to help us prevent such suffering, by signing our Combat Cruelty pledge and promising to be the voice for animals.

Your actions can help bring offenders to justice

South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act (1985) targets particular acts of animal cruelty and/or neglect including:

  • Torturing or beating an animal;
  • Confining or transporting an animal in a way that is inappropriate for its welfare;
  • Killing an animal in an inhumane manner;
  • Failing to provide appropriate or adequate food or water for an animal;
  • Failing to provide appropriate treatment for disease or injury; and
  • Failing to provide appropriate living conditions.

We are the only charity with inspectors empowered by State Parliament to investigate these acts. If we can build enough evidence, we can take offenders to court – and that entire process almost always starts with a report from a member of public like you.

Maddy prosecution case 2017-18-2
Read more: 3 most shocking SA animal cruelty cases prosecuted by RSPCA in 2017/18.

Please, report your suspicions immediately

If you believe you’ve witnessed animal cruelty or neglect, the first step is always to report the matter to RSPCA South Australia.

This can be done calling our 24-hour cruelty report hotline on 1300 4 777 22, or via our online report form: www.rspcasa.org.au/report-cruelty. But note that we cannot accept cruelty reports via social media, including Facebook. For legal reasons, you must make your report via our official hotline or online reporting form.

Remember to not get physically involved. Stay safe and record as much information as possible. Make sure to include anything relevant that could help prove the offence, taking note of time, place, situation and location. If you can, also take down the description of the possible offender. If vehicles are involved, note down the model, number, colour and make. If you have been threatened in anyway or feel unsafe, contact your local police straight away.

There are a few requirements needed to file a report.

  • You must have seen / witnessed the act of cruelty or result of the act/s.
  • You must be at least 18 years old. If you are younger, you can talk to someone older and have them file a report.
  • You must leave personal details. Rest assured, these details are strictly confidential and never passed on.
Full details: click here.

Our inspectors are always on the job

Once we receive a report of suspected animal cruelty or neglect, the report is assessed and an inspector is briefed. Based on the information you provide to us, animal cruelty reports are prioritised into one of three categories:

  1. Urgent jobs involving animals that have suffered serious physical injury are attended to within 24 hours.
  2. ASAP complaints regarding serious but not life-threatening issues (such as an animal with very poor body condition) are usually actioned within 48 hours.
  3. Routine jobs, such as pet shop inspections or dogs continually tethered, are attended to when the urgent and ASAP complaints have been managed.

The first priority of RSPCA inspectors is always animal welfare. Our mission is to prevent cruelty, so we do seek to educate owners on providing better care. When that is not possible, we seek to provide the animal a future free from further suffering, in an environment where they will receive ongoing care and protection.

Here in South Australia we have nine inspectors who cover 983,500 square kilometres and investigate more than 4,000 cruelty reports each year.

We do investigate all animal cruelty reports

Our inspectors do investigate all reports, which in most cases involves a site visit – our inspectors do not need the occupant’s permission to enter the premises. In some areas of country South Australia, police assist us by making the visit.

But please be aware that, due to privacy and legal constraints, we unfortunately are only able to provide confirmation that a report has been investigated. Further details of actions being undertaken cannot be provided to reporters until after any prosecution has finalised.

Most often, our inspectors will attempt to talk to the occupant, view the animals in question and discuss the conditions, environment and report of cruelty. Subsequent action taken is based on what our inspectors have observed.

Our inspectors may legally take any of the following actions:

  • Offer advice and assistance to the owner.
  • Issue a warning letter and follow up with spot checks to ensure the advice and/or recommendations have been implemented.
  • Issue the owner with an Animal Welfare Notice, which requires the owner to take action as instructed by the Inspector.
  • Issue an expiation notice if the Welfare Notice has not been complied with.
  • Seize the animal/s if the inspector believes that the animal is currently or in immediate danger of suffering harm.
  • Prosecute the owner for a breach of the Animal Welfare Act.

The entire process can take anywhere from days to years depending on the severity of the case and the actions taken.

Click to read survivor stories.

Animal neglect and cruelty is still prevalent, but you can help prevent it

We rely on people like you to keep our inspectors on the road each year – more than half the funding for our inspectorate arm comes from community donations. Meanwhile, our dedicated Animal Ambulance rescue team, which responds to animal emergencies, is entirely funded by donations.

That’s right – it’s only thanks to our supporters that we can keep our nine inspectors and four rescue officers on the road, going where animals need us most. You can help by donating.

Now that you understand the scale of animal abuse and neglect in South Australia, and how our inspectors work tirelessly to address it, please join us and take our pledge to Combat Cruelty today.

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