Enforcing the Animal Welfare Act

Page last updated: Thursday, 4 May 2023 - 1:08pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The Animal Welfare Act 2002 (the Act) encompasses all live amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals other than humans. This includes companion animals, native animals, livestock and animals used for research and teaching but does not extend to invertebrates or fish. The Act intends to promote and protect the welfare, safety and health of animals, ensure the proper and humane care and management of animals in accordance with generally accepted standards, and reflect the community’s expectation that people in charge of animals will ensure that they are properly treated and cared for.

Who enforces the Animal Welfare Act?

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is the department of the public service assisting the Minister for Agriculture and Food in the administration of the Act.

The enforcement of the Act is divided into two key parts:

  • General inspectors enforce the provisions concerning offences against animals (including cruelty against animals) contained in Part 3 of the Act.
  • Scientific inspectors enforce the provisions concerning the use of animals for scientific purposes under a licence contained in Part 2 of the Act. For more information on scientific inspectors, visit the scientific purposes webpage.

A general inspector and a scientific inspector have different powers and functions under the Act.

General inspectors

The enforcement of the provisions concerning offences against animals in Part 3 of the Act is primarily conducted by general Inspectors from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Western Australia (Incorporated) (RSPCA) and the Livestock Compliance Unit (LCU) within DPIRD's Animal Welfare Regulation project. General inspectors of both organisations investigate complaints of cruelty against animals and carry out a range of compliance and enforcement actions.

DPIRD acknowledges that the RSPCA may have or advocate policies that differ from those of the Western Australian Government. However, the RSPCA separates their compliance and enforcement role and policies from their other policies.

In addition, members of the staff of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and local governments have been appointed as general inspectors. All WA Police officers have the powers of a general inspector.

RSPCA general inspectors

The RSPCA general inspectors' enforcement and compliance responsibilities under the Act include:

  • receiving and investigating complaints of animal cruelty
  • undertaking inspections and other compliance activities for non-commercial livestock and companion animals
  • educating members of the public on responsible pet ownership practices
  • conducting enforcement activities, including prosecution where appropriate.

Livestock Compliance Unit 

The LCU's enforcement and compliance responsibilities under the Act relate to commercial livestock and include the following:

  • promoting compliance with the Act
  • animal welfare monitoring at livestock aggregation points across all levels of the livestock supply chain (for example, saleyards, feedlots, abattoirs, knackeries and ports)
  • investigating reports of cruelty to livestock
  • conducting compliance and enforcement actions, including prosecution where appropriate
  • providing extension and education in relation to animal livestock.


Contact information

Animal Welfare General Enquiries