Inspections and enforcement

The enforcement agencies of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA Act) can investigate cruelty to an animal. The enforcement agencies are:

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Frequently asked questions

In NSW, three organisations are authorised to enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA Act) - RSPCA NSW, Animal Welfare League NSW and NSW Police.

The primary purpose of an inspection is to ensure that animals are being cared for appropriately.

Usually inspections are triggered by a complaint to one of the animal welfare enforcement agencies.

On receipt of a complaint, an enforcement agency will assign an inspector to investigate by visiting the related premises.

If there is concern for the welfare of stock animals, the enforcement agency may request the assistance of Local Land Services to provide advice.

A visit from an enforcement agency will not always result in a penalty notice or prosecution.

Providing false or misleading information is an offence under the POCTA Act. False or vexatious complaints are investigated and treated seriously.

Authorised inspectors will often seek consent to enter a property to carry out inspections.

Inspectors may enter private property without consent if they reasonably suspect that an offence against the POCTA Act or Regulation is being, has been, or is about to be committed in respect of an animal.

Inspectors may also enter land used for certain commercial purposes without consent, in order to inspect the welfare of animals and/or gather evidence. This includes land on which an animal is being used, or kept for use, in connection with any trade, business or profession (e.g. a saleyard).

If an enforcement agency visits your property, the best approach is to cooperate with the inspectors.

Remember, the primary purpose of inspections is to ensure the appropriate care of animals.

Authorised inspectors can provide advice and education and issue instructions to the person caring for the animal/s to improve animal welfare outcomes.

You are encouraged to answer the inspectors questions. If an inspector provides advice or issues you with care instructions, be sure you understand what is required and ask questions if you need to.

If you need the help of a translator or require other assistance to participate in the discussions, make sure you ask for help.

A visit from an enforcement agency will not necessarily result in enforcement action being taken.

In the majority of cases, enforcement agencies will seek to resolve animal welfare issues through the provision of education and advice.

The enforcement agencies consider a range of factors when deciding whether to prosecute for breaches of the POCTA Act or Regulation.

Depending on the circumstances, an inspector may take one or more of the following actions to improve animal welfare outcomes:

  • provide advice on appropriate care
  • officially caution the person/s
  • issue written directions to address welfare issues
  • issue a penalty infringement notice
  • collect evidence to begin a prosecution
  • immediately seize any animal found to be in distress.

The POCTA Act authorises inspectors to enter land to examine animals and gather evidence if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence is, has, or is about to be committed with respect to an animal.

Inspectors have a range of options available to resolve animal welfare cases - beginning with no action taken, to seizure, the provision of veterinary treatment, or euthanasia of animals in more serious cases.

In the majority of cases, inspectors will seek to resolve animal welfare issues through the provision of education and advice to the owner or person in charge of an animal. They may issue written instructions to achieve this outcome.

Inspectors exercise procedural fairness when investigating complaint. They ensure fair and proper procedures are followed when making a decision as to which method to utilise in order to improve the welfare outcomes for an animal.

It is important to remember that not every allegation of poor animal welfare practice will result in enforcement action being taken.

If an inspector provides you with advice or issues you with written instructions, be sure you understand what is required and ask questions if you need to.

You need to follow written instructions within the stated time frame.

An inspector may revisit a property following the initial inspection to ensure that directions or advice have been followed. If directions have not been followed and the animal/s remains at risk, an inspector may elect to take additional action.

Failure to comply with written instructions without a reasonable excuse, is an offence under the POCTA Act.

If you require the assistance of a translator or any other form of assistance to participate in discussions or comply with written instructions, it is important that you ask for help.

Stock welfare

Following an inspection of an animal/s, an enforcement agency inspector may provide advice, or issue written instructions, relating to the care of the animals to a stockholder, usually in consultation with Local Land Services.

In serious cases an inspector  may immediately seize an animal.

If a person in charge does not comply with written instructions, and the animal/s remain at risk, an enforcement agency may request that a Stock Welfare Panel be established. NSW DPI has the authority to establish a Stock Welfare Panel.

Stock Welfare Panels seek to improve the animal welfare outcomes for the stock through a structured process.

Panels must consist of representatives from an enforcement agency, Local Land Services, NSW DPI and usually include a NSW Farmers' representative. The Local Land Services and NSW DPI representatives must have animal welfare or stock management expertise. If the Local Land Services representative is not a veterinarian, the Stock Welfare Panel may also include a private veterinarian.

Subsequent to advice from the Panel, NSW DPI may issue written instructions (an official warning notice) for the care of the animals to be completed within a set timeframe.

The Panel will monitor, assess and report on compliance. If the owner or person in charge does not comply, NSW DPI may issue an order to seize and dispose of the stock by way of sale or otherwise.

The costs of doing this are taken from the proceeds of the sale of the animals. The owner or person in charge receives the balance of the proceeds of sale.

This process is set out in Part 2B of the POCTA Act.

Local Land Services (LLS) is available to provide advice on caring for animals and animal welfare, feeding advice, assessment of stock to ensure they are "fit to load" and biosecurity advice. If you are seeking this advice, you are encouraged to contact your LLS Office.

LLS is not an animal welfare enforcement agency.

LLS vets can provide advice to animal welfare enforcement agencies for cases involving stock.  They may also attend inspections in an advisory capacity  to provide advice.

A representative from LLS is on Stock Welfare Panels when they are convened.

NSW DPI administers the POCTA Act, but is not an enforcement agency. NSW DPI has the power to authorise the establishment of a Stock Welfare Panel, which is usually at the request of an enforcement agency.

NSW DPI convenes and provides secretariat support for Stock Welfare Panels and a NSW DPI representative with expertise in animal welfare or livestock management, participates on Stock Welfare Panels when they are established. NSW DPI has the power to issue warnings and order seizure and disposal of stock.

Stock will only be euthanased in serious circumstances.

In the majority of cases, enforcement agencies will seek to resolve animal welfare issues through the provision of education and advice.

Euthanasia is considered to be a ‘last resort’ measure that is taken to ensure appropriate animal welfare outcomes.

The POCTA Act provides that an authorised inspector may euthanase an animal, if the inspector suspects on reasonable grounds, that the animal is in distress or the animal is so severely injured, diseased or in such a physical condition that it is cruel to keep it alive.