ANIMAL torturers will face up to seven years jail under a tough new offence targeting people who intentionally inflict severe pain and suffering upon an animal.

The new offence nearly doubles the penalty for existing animal cruelty offences.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says the offence is designed to send a clear message that serious animal cruelty will not be tolerated.

“The community has said violence against animals is abhorrent and not to be tolerated, and we have listened,” he says in a statement.

He says the RSPCA will continue to play a major role in bringing animal torturers to justice, by investigating and commencing proceedings against offenders.

RSPCA Queensland CEO Mark Townend has welcomed the reforms, which he says fill a gap in what the community expects when dealing with offenders who torture defenceless animals.

“Our inspectors and staff have seen the horrific aftermath of serious cruelty to animals and a strong punishment and deterrent is needed,” he says.

“Sadly the link between animal cruelty and future abuse of people has been well documented so these reforms will also act as a preventative measure.”

Couper Geysen paralegal Tracey Jackson conducts all the RSPCA prosecutions for the family and animal law firm, and instructs the barristers involved in BLEATS – Brisbane Lawyers Educating and Advocating for Tougher Sentences.

She was assistant chief inspector at the RSPCA for four years and says the improvements to the legislation are a step in the right direction, but their effectiveness will ultimately be decided by their application in the courts.

“Of course we’re happy to see an increase in the maximum penalty, but what’s more important is the application of those penalties in the courts,” she says.

“It comes down to the decisions by the courts. We’ve had some magistrates hand down periods of imprisonment, only to be overturned by the district courts.

“This new offence won’t apply for somebody who loses their temper and punches their dog, that’s covered by existing legislation. But it will apply to someone who deliberately sets out to torture an animal. Maybe they video themselves harming an animal just for the enjoyment of it. It is important that those kinds of actions are set apart from others because they are different.

“I’m hoping it will act as a deterrent, but obviously it will certainly meet some of the community’s expectations about how animal welfare cases are dealt with in the courts."

She says BLEATS is most pleased that the power to investigate and prosecute has been left with the RSPCA.

“There a myth out there that RSPCA prosecutions depend on funding, that we should be handing prosecutions over to the police, but it needs to belong to the experts.

“Every single case that’s prosecutable is prosecuted. If there ever is a need for funding it’s provided by the RSPCA.”

Couper Geysen is a specialist in animal law, dealing with a variety of cases, including pet custody arrangements following relationship breakdowns, vet negligence, dangerous dog matters and any cases were animals have suffered injuries or death.

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