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:

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.

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

Upon receiving a complaint, the enforcement agency will investigate by visiting the related premises. If there is concern for the welfare of stock animals, the enforcement agency will request the assistance of Local Land Services to provide advice.

The primary purpose of inspections is to ensure the appropriate care of animals. A visit from an enforcement agency will not always result in a penalty notice or prosecution. Authorised inspectors can provide advice and education and provide instructions to the person caring for the animal/s to improve animal welfare outcomes.

Authorised inspectors from the enforcement agencies will often seek consent to enter a property to carry out inspections.

Under the POCTA Act, they can enter a property without consent to examine an animal if they suspect on reasonable grounds that an offence against the POCTA Act or Regulation is being, has been or is about to be committed in respect of the animal.

Authorised inspectors can also enter land used for certain commercial purposes to ensure compliance with the POCTA Act and Regulation. This includes land on which an animal is being used, or kept for use, in connection with any trade, business or profession.

The best approach is to cooperate with the inspector/s.

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 the inspector provides advice or issues you with care instructions, be sure you understand them 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.

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

The primary purpose of inspections is to ensure the appropriate care of animals. A visit from an enforcement agency will not always result in a penalty notice or prosecution. Authorised inspectors can provide advice and education and provide instructions to the person caring for the animal/s to improve animal welfare outcomes.

Stock welfare

Following an inspection of the 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 the enforcement agency may immediately seize an animal.

It the owner does not comply with the written instructions, and the animal/s remain in distress or at risk of distress, the 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 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 receives the balance of the proceeds of sale.

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

Local Land Services provides advice on caring for animals and animal welfare, feeding advice, assessment of stock to ensure they are "fit to load" and biosecurity advice.

Local Land Services’ vets provide advice to POCTA enforcement agencies for animal welfare cases involving stock. A representative from Local Land Services is also included 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.