Animal Welfare Act 2002

Page last updated: Monday, 4 February 2019 - 2:19pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The Animal Welfare Act 2002 (the Act) and its accompanying regulations provide the legal framework for ensuring that all animals in Western Australia have appropriate standards of care.

About the Act

For a copy of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 please visit the Parliamentary Counsel's Office website.

The Act intends to:

  • promote and protect the welfare, safety and health of animals
  • ensure the proper and humane care and management of all animals in accordance with generally accepted standards
  • reflect the community’s expectation that people who are in charge of animals will ensure that they are properly treated and cared for.

The Act is set out in 6 parts:

  • Part 1 – Preliminary, outlines the purpose and intent of the Act and definitions.
  • Part 2 – Use of animals for scientific purposes, provides for the scientific use of animals.
  • Part 3 – Offences against animals broadly sets out the cruelty provisions and defences, possession of things intended to inflict cruelty and shooting, hunting or fighting captive animals.
  • Part 4 – Inspectors, provides for the appointment of inspectors, the functions and powers of inspectors and additional powers specifically applicable to scientific inspectors.
  • Part 5 – Enforcement, provides for the application of additional court orders, warrants, infringement notices, reviewable decisions, offences other than cruelty and general matters.
  • Part 6 – Miscellaneous, provides for a range of other matters such as delegation, powers of the CEO, improper use of information and regulation making powers.

Subsidiary legislation under the Act consists of 4 sets of regulations:

Types of animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act

Animals are defined in the Act as:

  • a live vertebrate, or
  • a live invertebrate of a prescribed kind, (there are no invertebrates prescribed)

other than a human or a fish (as defined in the Fish Resources Management Act 1994)

The Fish Resources Management Act 1994 defines a fish as an aquatic organism of any species (whether alive or dead) and includes —

  1. the eggs, spat, spawn, seeds, spores, fry, larva or other source of reproduction or offspring of an aquatic organism; and
  2. a part only of an aquatic organism (including the shell or tail); and
  3. live rock and live sand,

but does not include aquatic mammals, aquatic reptiles, aquatic birds, amphibians or pearl oysters

Therefore the Act, encompasses all live amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals other than humans. This includes companion animals, native animals, livestock, animals in zoos and animals used for research and teaching but does not extend to invertebrates (for example, insects, cephalopods, crustaceans) or fish.

Animal welfare for fish, cephalopods and invertebrates

The Fish Resources Management Act 1994 (FRMA) has regulation making powers to regulate animal welfare for fish (as defined by the FRMA). There are currently no regulations under the FRMA concerning animal welfare of fish.

Offences and penalties

A person who is convicted of cruelty under the Act can be fined a minimum of $2000 up to a maximum of $50 000 and imprisoned for five years. Penalties for a body corporate (an incorporated business) can be five times the penalties for an individual.

A court convicting a person of an offence under the Act may, in addition to imposing a penalty, make any other orders against the offender that the court considers appropriate to protect the welfare, safety and health of an animal, a group of animals or animals in general. This includes being banned from buying, owning, contact with or caring for an animal for any period, including life.

A person who is convicted of an offence other than cruelty can be fined between $2000 and $20 000. Some of these offences carry terms of imprisonment of up to one year.

A person who continues to commit an offence can be penalised by up to $1000 per day that the offence continues.

Recent changes to animal welfare legislation

Animal Welfare (Pig Industry) Regulations

The following regulation under the Animal Welfare (Pig Industry) Regulations came into effect on 1 July 2012:

     11.   Pigs confined in group enclosures

                A person in charge of a pig that is kept confined in a group enclosure must
                ensure that:

                (a)      for each sow kept in the enclosure — the floor space of the enclosure
                          is not less than 1.4 square metres; and

                (b)      for each female pig, other than a sow, weighing more than 100
                          kilograms kept in the enclosure — the floor space is not less
                          than one square metre; and

                (c)      in any other case — for each pig kept in the enclosure, the
                          floor space of the enclosure is not less than the number
                          of square metres calculated in accordance with the
                          following formula —

                       0.030 x P 0.67

                       Where:

                       P is the average weight in kilograms of each pig
                       kept in the enclosure.

                       Penalty: a fine of $2500.

Pig producers must ensure that any pigs confined in group enclosures are provided with at least the minimum floor space requirements stated in the regulation. These space requirements are taken from the nationally agreed Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Pigs 3rd edition 2008.

A copy of the Animal Welfare (Pig Industry) Regulations can be found at the State Law Publisher’s website or by contacting the Animal Welfare Regulation on the contact details below.

Proposed changes to animal welfare legislation

The animal welfare legislation in Western Australia is being updated to ensure better welfare outcomes for the animals in our State.

Changes are currently proposed in the following areas:

Land transport regulations

Regulations are being drafted to incorporate the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Land Transport of Livestock (standards only).

The Regulations will:

  • require people involved in the transportation process of all livestock (including non-commercial and “backyard” livestock) to comply with regulations consistent with the standards specified in the document Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Land Transport of Livestock. Animal Health Australia, Canberra.
  • prescribe penalties for non-compliance with the regulations.

Infringement notices

The Act provides for the introduction of infringement notices for defined offences.

An infringement notice or fine is a ‘modified penalty’ that can be applied to certain offences under the Act. As the penalty is modified, an infringement notice is less than the penalty prescribed for the same offence if the matter goes to Court.

Payment of the modified penalty is not an admission of guilt for the purposes of any civil or criminal proceedings. A person who receives an infringement notice has the option of having the matter heard by the courts where the higher penalty may apply if found guilty.

Following introduction, agencies with enforcement responsibilities under the Act can impose infringement notices for defined offences. An inspector can then either issue an infringement notice or pursue the matter through the courts depending upon the seriousness of the specific matter.

DAFWA is currently drafting regulations and undertaking the required administrative arrangements to allow for the introduction of infringement notices.

Prohibited activities

It is an offence under the Act to engage in a prohibited activity. The Act defines a prohibited activity as an activity that involves releasing an animal, or putting an animal somewhere, for the purpose of enabling the animal to be:

  1. shot at (whether with a firearm or any other weapon)
  2. hunted by a person or another animal
  3. fought by a person or another animal, or
  4. chased by another animal, other than an animal of the same species.

The Act considers a person is engaging in a prohibited activity if the person:

  1. takes part in it
  2. spectates at it
  3. organises it
  4. promotes it
  5. keeps an animal for the purpose of it
  6. allows it to occur at a place owned or operated by the person, or
  7. in the case of the activities described in (c) and (d) of the definition of “prohibited activity”, encourages an animal to participate in it.

Severe penalties apply for a person convicted of engaging in a prohibited activity. A minimum penalty of $2000 up to a maximum of $50 000 or five years imprisonment apply for each offence.

It is a defence to a charge of engaging in a prohibited activity where the activity is the releasing of an animal for the purposes of it being hunted by another animal for a person to prove that:

  • the animal was released as food for a predatory animal kept in captivity
  • the diet of captive predatory animals of that kind ordinarily includes animals of the kind released, and
  • the captive predatory animal will not ordinarily eat dead meat.

Inhumane devices

The Act provides for the protection of animals by prohibiting inhumane and improper treatment of animals. The use of an inhumane device on an animal is an act of cruelty. Inhumane devices include:

  • a device that is designed or modified to deliver an electric shock to an animal (other than an electric fence)
  • jawed traps of any kind
  • spurs that have sharpened or fully-fixed rowels
  • spurs that are reasonably capable of penetrating the skin of the animal on which they are intended to be used.

Devices designed or modified to deliver an electric shock to an animal

The Act (Section 29) and Regulation 7 of the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations provide defences in relation to the use of inhumane devices. It is a defence to a charge of cruelty that arises out of the use on an animal of a device that is designed or modified to deliver an electric shock to an animal (other than an electric fence), for the defendant to prove that the device used is one set out in the table below and the device is used on the animal for the purpose and in accordance with the conditions set out next to the device on the table.

Device

Purpose

Type of animal

Manner of use

Electric stock prod

Driving, herding, mustering or controlling animals

Cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, buffalo or camels

Must not be applied to the face, udder or genital organs of an animal.

Electric stock prod

Controlling animals at a rodeo

Horses or cattle

Must not be applied to the face, udder or genital organs of an animal.

Electric stunning device

Electrical stunning of animals in an abattoir

Cattle, sheep, goats or pigs

Must be used in accordance with the relevant code of practice for the particular animal (set out under regulation 6 of the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations).

Electro‑
ejaculator

Collecting semen from conscious animals

Cattle or sheep

Must be used in accordance with any relevant code of practice for the particular animal (set out under regulation 6 of the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations).

Electro‑
ejaculator

Collecting semen from tranquillised or anaesthetised animals

All species of animal, including cattle and sheep

Must be used in accordance with any relevant code of practice for the particular animal (set out under regulation 6 of the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations).

Electric training collar activated by the animal or a person in the course of training an animal

Training of animals

Dogs

Must be used in accordance with the generally accepted method of usage for the type of collar.

Electrical device known as the “invisible fence”

Containment and training of animals

Dogs

Must be used in accordance with the generally accepted method of usage for the type of “invisible fence”.

Electro‑
immobiliser

Restraining animals

Cattle

Must be used in accordance with the generally accepted method of usage for the type of device.

Jawed traps

The Act (Section 29) and Regulation 8 of the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations provide defences in relation to the use of an inhumane device.

It is a defence to a charge of cruelty that arises out of the use on an animal of a jawed trap, for the defendant to prove that the device was used in accordance with Regulation 8 of the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations.

In summary:

Wild dog control using metal jawed leghold trap

  • Must be used by the:
    • owner or leasee of an agricultural or pastoral property, or their authorised agent, or
    • an officer of a Commonwealth, State or local government agency, who is responsible for wild dog control.
  • Must ensure that the jaws of the trap are bound with cloth containing sufficient strychnine to ensure a rapid death for any animal likely to be caught in the trap.
  • Where the use is for scientific purposes, must ensure that the jaws of the trap are sufficiently padded, or the trap has otherwise been modified, so that any animal caught in the trap is unlikely to suffer significant injury.

Fox control using metal jawed leghold trap:

  • Must be used by the
    • the owner of land or the owner’s agent on the relevant land, or
    • a licensed pest control operator.
  • Must ensure that the jaws of the trap are sufficiently padded, or the trap has otherwise been modified, so that any animal caught in the trap is unlikely to suffer significant injury, and
  • Must ensure that any permit to set the trap required under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Regulations 2013 has first been obtained.

Contact information

Animal Welfare General Enquiries