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Animal welfare advocates push for tougher penalties in review

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For the first time in 20 years, the Animal Care and Protection Act is being reviewed and animal welfare advocates are pushing for harsher penalties inline with public opinion.

Consultations closed in May with more than 2000 submissions received from organisations and individuals.

RSPCA Queensland is zeroing in on a few key areas it wants to see changed:

Increased penalties for aggravated offending and prolonged offending

Prioritisation of seized animals

Adequate enforcement of prohibition orders from other states and inspectors provided a limited power of entry to check compliance

Prohibit tethering of animals without a reasonable excuse

2020 Animal cruelty complaints to RSPCA for far north Queensland 

Cairns 35

Cairns North 14

Atherton 31

Mareeba 51

 RSPCA Queensland spokesman Michael Beatty says the organisation is hopeful its submissions are being considered seriously and turned into law.

The maximum penalty for duty of care offences is currently one year imprisonment, and Mr Beatty suggests that's not enough.

"At the moment the penalty for organised dog fighting is only one year and we'd like to see that increased in line with the maximum penalty for animal cruelty, which is three years," he says.

"We'd like to see the penalty for animal cruelty to rise as well because what happens now is magistrates rely on precedence when they hand down a sentence.

"The longest sentence we've had is six months and the person only had to do three months.

"The same goes for animal neglect, the maximum penalty for that is one year imprisonment."

Currently, under the Act there is no provision that allows courts to make orders to transfer ownership of seized animals until after a prosecution has finalised a conviction.

Mr Beatty says this puts enormous stress on dogs, who can remain in shelter limbo for years, and places financial pressure on the RSPCA.

He believes public sentiment is very much on the side of animal justice.

"In regards to animals being seized we have to wait until that case goes to trial before we can a) rehome the dogs, or, b) have any hope of recouping some of the costs, which can be extremely high," he says.

"The animals themselves, in most cases they are dogs, sometimes languish for up to two years without finding a loving home."

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries continues to review the submissions.