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Australia's Horror Month Of Animal Cruelty Leads To Push For National Protection Laws

October 2019 has been a horror month for despicable acts of animal cruelty and the RSPCA says it's tired of the issue not being taken seriously, calling on the country to be proactive and introduce national laws immediately.

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING:The country's leading animal welfare organisation says Australia is too reactive in handing cases of cruelty, as our agriculture ministers pledge to turn us into a 'world leader' in welfare and protection.

It comes after multiple horror acts made headlines in the last month, surfacing from all corners of the country.

The latest stemmed from Parkerville on the outskirts of Perth, where a kookaburra's head was ripped off after it pinched food off the plate of a pub patron.

Shockingly RSPCA WA has since revealed the person responsible will likely not be prosecuted because the state's law doesn't consider it to be an act of animal cruelty because the bird 'did not suffer' before it was killed.

Two-year-old American bulldog named Bella was rescued by the RSPCA in Queensland earlier this year. Image: AAP

Currently, there are no national laws that protect the welfare of animals in Australia.

The federal government does play a role in the welfare of live export and wildlife trades as well as export-accredited abattoirs, but the rest is left up to individual states and territories to legislate.

The push for national law also comes as both Queensland and New South Wales announced separate inquiries into whether local regulations are doing enough to prevent acts of cruelty.

RSPCA Australia's acting CEO Dr Bidda Jones said the organisation welcomed both inquiries but she felt the animal cruelty issue was only made a priority when a case led to public outrage - such as the ABC revealing the mistreatment of racehorses in abattoirs earlier this month.

“If we are to improve animal welfare standards and ensure they are properly regulated, we need governments to take animal welfare seriously at all times and provide sufficient resources to implement meaningful change that actually improves the lives of animals,” Jones told 10 daily.

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While each state and territory has similar laws, rules are enforced differently and penalties for acts of cruelty vary. There are also differences in terms of which species are protected by local laws.

Because of this Jones and the RSPCA is calling for a national approach that includes the absolute prohibition of cruelty committed on any animal regardless of where in Australia it happened.

The organisation also wants to change the way laws are enforced - so that the country is better educated and equipped to respond to offences.

HOW DOES EACH STATE COMPARE CURRENTLY?

New South Wales: 

Anyone convicted of animal cruelty in NSW faces upwards of $5,000 in penalties and six months in jail. Aggravated animal cruelty convictions can see imprisonment for up to two years and fines of up to $22,000.

Sadly, despite threats of jail and massive fines, the state still sees serious cases of cruelty.

Just last week a Sydney teenager was charged after she allegedly stabbed a cat to death and threw it off a balcony.

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Earlier this month another teenager was charged after 20 kangaroos were found dead on a road in Eden.

That teen was accused of hitting and killing the roos with a vehicle.

Queensland:

The sunshine state has been praised by Jones for enforcing the highest penalties in Australia.

Those who commit acts of animal cruelty in QLD risk a maximum jail time of seven years and a maximum fine of $235,600.

Still, it's not enough to stop cruelty from happening.

Last year a property raid found 20 water and shelter starved dogs and led to a man pleading guilty to dogfighting charges. RSPCA said the dogs had lived heavily chained up and flea-ridden for quite some time.

Earlier this month a young magpie was reportedly set on fire on the Sunshine Coast.

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In July, fury turned towards a closed Gold Coast business after lobsters were left in an abandoned building that had once been used as a restaurant.

That case put a spotlight on QLD laws as lobsters aren't protected by the state's Animal Care and Protection Act.

Western Australia:

The animal cruelty debate is raging in WA after the head was ripped off a kookaburra at a pub near Perth.

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The act has outraged locals as it doesn't look like anyone will be prosecuted.

“Due to the quick nature of this bird's demise, it does not appear to meet the level of suffering required to become an offence," RSPCA WA said.

Victoria:

As the country's ministers met to tackle animal cruelty last week, welfare officers in Victoria were sent to investigate shocking footage of a farmer bludgeoning newborn goats to death at a dairy farm.

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But, similar to issues with other states, Victorian law does not protect 'production animals' from animal cruelty.

However, anyone convicted of cruelty offences in the state faces more than $40,000 in fines or 12 months in jail.

Victoria has however reviewed its legislation and proposed changes are expected to come into effect by the end of the year.

South Australia:

Again this month saw a horrific act of cruelty in the south when an off-duty police officer was filmed cheering as he tormented and stoned a wombat to death.

That incident is being investigated by SA police and sparked a furious national debate as to whether the animal’s killing was an act of tradition or torture.

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ACT:

Jones praised the ACT for recently passing 'world-leading' legislation that recognised animals as sentient beings capable of both physical and mental feelings.

“This is now the most advanced animal welfare act in Australia,” Jones said.

In the ACT dog owners face $4000 in fines for leaving their pets confined for a full day and not giving them enough exercise.

Dogfighting and other violent animal involved activities draw up to three years' jail time and $50,000 in fines.

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Tasmania:

Tasmania increased penalties for animal cruelty in 2015, meaning those convicted face up to five years' jail and $30,000 in fines.

Still, this hasn't stopped stories of cruelty in the state.

In July two wallabies were found shot with arrows near Hobart.

Then on Monday, independent MP Andrew Wilkie called for rodeos banned in the state after graphic footage surfaced of a bull with a broken back leg in an arena at the Royal Hobart Show.

The rodeo bull, which was euthanised on Friday, could be seen limping in the video posted on Facebook by animal rescue organisation Brightside Farm Sanctuary.

"The state government can't be trusted to safeguard animal welfare and, as we saw with the slaughter of racehorses last week, self-regulation does not work," Mr Wilkie said.

Northern Territory:

Last year the NT passed a new bill for animal protection, boosting the safeguards against animal cruelty and protecting indigenous cultural hunting practices.

The new legislation saw penalties increased for offences including imprisonment and fines of up to $77,500.

WHAT'S BEING DONE NOW?

Last week Queensland announced an urgent inquiry into the treatment of racehorses after an ABC investigation showed the country how horses were being beaten and brutally killed in a Caboolture abattoir - putting the spotlight on the racing industry.

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Further south, NSW began their own inquiry into state animal cruelty laws.

That inquiry is analysing how effective it is to rely on charitable organisations such as the RSPCA (NSW) and Animal Welfare League in preventing animal cruelty in the state.

A NSW committee is also looking at the standard of care and kill rates for stray, surrendered or seized animals and whether relying on the above organisations to investigate animal cruelty cases and enforce punishment is enough of a deterrent.

Federal Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie. Image: AAP

In addition to this, on October 25 the country's state and territory agriculture ministers met with their federal counterparts to discuss how Australia can achieve the 'world's best animal standards'.

Federal Minister Bridget McKenzie said the country's agriculture ministers had a responsibility to take "matters of animal welfare incredibly seriously".

As of yet, Australia is yet to have a national approach to preventing animal cruelty - but based on October 2019 alone, those fighting to better protection laws say enough is enough.