Incidents of animal cruelty are increasingly reported by the media yet despite the abundance of offending there have been very few prosecutions in relation to animal cruelty, and only a 3% imprisonment rate. The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill has been introduced to send a clear message to the public that offending of this nature will not be tolerated. It is believed that in the absence of government intervention, incidents are only likely to increase. There is also a growing body of evidence linking animal cruelty to aggression towards humans. The Hon. Simon Bridges, who advanced this Bill, believes that if we treat animal cruelty seriously we may also help prevent further serious offending. Outlined below are some of the changes proposed by the Bill. An increase in the maximum sentences for various ill-treatment offences. The penalty for wilful ill-treatment will increase from three years to five years imprisonment, together with a maximum fine of $100,000 for individuals and $500,000 for a body corporate. A new offence of reckless ill-treatment will be introduced to fill the gap between the offence of wilful ill-treatment and simple ill-treatment. This provision will apply when the offender knew or appreciated that serious harm could occur and unreasonably still took the risk. The penalty will be a maximum of three years imprisonment, or a fine not exceeding $75,000 for an individual and August 2010 – October 2010 Page 4 of 4 © 2010 $350,000 for a body corporate. Federated Farmers have expressed concern that this new offence may place farmers at risk of prosecution in the course of their normal farming duties and that it does not take into account the complexities and financial realties of animal ownership for production. Parliament’s view is that the new section is essential to ensure prosecution and harsher penalties for those serious offences that do not meet the threshold for wilful ill-treatment. It will also be more difficult to remove an order that disqualifies an individual from owning an animal for a period of time. Individuals will not be able to apply to have an order removed within two years of it being made, or for the period specified in the order. The penalty for contravening a disqualification order will increase to a maximum of three years imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $75,000 for an individual or $350,000 for a body corporate. The rules around forfeiture of animals will be broadened to enable all animals owned by the offender to be removed, and not just the animal that is the subject of the offence. Unfairness around forfeiture is to be avoided by ensuring that an owner does not have to forfeit their animal if the offending behaviour was committed by someone else. Overall it is believed that these new provisions will strengthen the Act and enable serious offending against animals to be dealt with more effectively.