The RSPCA is calling for legislative change to introduce mandatory reporting of animal cruelty by those who, by virtue of their job, are expected to have an understanding of animal welfare legislation.

Recent debate surrounding the publication of footage of acts of cruelty to animals in shearing sheds and abattoirs has focused on the role of ‘animal activists’ who filmed the abuse and lost sight of the fate of the animals involved.

“The senseless brutality to sheep exposed last month should have shocked the nation, but instead the debate became focused on the messenger.

“It should not have to take someone with a camera to raise the alarm when there are already eye-witnesses to the events being filmed,” said Heather Neil, RSPCA Australia CEO.

“The RSPCA believes that anyone witnessing animal cruelty has a moral obligation to report it to the relevant authorities.

“But there are some people who, by the nature of their role, are expected to know what animal cruelty is and when action should be taken.

“These people should have a legal obligation to report cruelty when they see it,” said Ms Neil.

The changes proposed by the RSPCA would make it a legal requirement for people in a position of responsibility to report incidents of cruelty to the relevant authorities.

Mandatory reporting will help to create a culture where people are aware of their responsibilities to protect animals and which will not tolerate the abuse and neglect of animals.

The proposed changes would include whistleblower protections for those reporting cruelty to ensure they do not suffer reprisals.

“Such changes will require increased government support to ensure all agencies in charge of implementing animal welfare regulation are adequately resourced to enable them to respond to the increased number of cruelty reports,” said Ms Neil.

“Funding for training is also needed to ensure people know what cases they should and should not report, and public education is vital to make the community aware of the extent of their responsibility to report animal cruelty.

“All these measures are essential if we are to provide Australian animals with the protection they deserve,” said Ms Neil.

Supporting documents:
RSPCA Inspectorate facts and statistics

RSPCA Australia discussion paper - Ag gag laws in Australia

RSPCA Australia FAQs - Act to Protect Animals by reporting animal cruelty