Report animal cruelty

When should I make a complaint?

The majority of people who own or interact with animals treat them humanely and comply with agreed animal welfare standards. There are instances where this is not the case and an investigation is needed to identify whether a breach of legislation has occurred.

The following list of examples  could be the subject of a cruelty complaint:

  • animals in immediate danger of death or harm (such as a dog locked in a car on a warm day or an animal that cannot get up and is distressed)
  • animals that are hurt or abused
  • neglected or abandoned animals
  • animals suffering from untreated injury or disease
  • animals that are not receiving adequate food, water and/or shelter
  • animals that are being used in illegal activity (such as dog fighting or cock fighting)
  • animals that have been deliberately poisoned (other than for the control of declared pests)

Who to report a complaint about animal cruelty to

Animal cruelty can be investigated by Inspectors authorised under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 from the following organisations:

  • Agriculture Victoria
  • RSPCA
  • Local Government
  • Victoria Police

If you witness cruelty or suspect that cruelty is occurring you should contact the relevant enforcement agency.

If you find an animal left in a hot car, please contact Victoria Police immediately on 000. Victoria Police will be able dispatch officers quickly, which is critical in these situations.

Agriculture Victoria

Our inspectors primarily investigate matters concerning commercial livestock. Complaints should be directed to the Animal Health Officer at your local Agriculture Victoria office. Call our customer service centre on 136 186 or email aw.complaint@agriculture.vic.gov.au

If you find a sick or injured native animal, you should report it immediately to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) customer service centre on 136 186 who will provide you with details of a DELWP staff member or local wildlife shelter that can provide advice or help.

For wildlife cruelty complaints contact us or RSPCA where you will be directed to the appropriate officer.

Concerns about the welfare of animals being used in scientific procedures should be referred to sp.licensing@ecodev.vic.gov.au

RSPCA Victoria

The RSPCA primarily investigates complaints about companion animals and livestock species where there are less than 10 head on the property (for example horses and hobby farm animals). The RSPCA also investigates complaints regarding cruelty to invasive animals (for example illegal use of traps and setting of dogs on feral pigs).

A report can be made to the RSPCA either online or by phoning 03 9224 2222.

Memorandum of Understanding

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) sets out RSPCA Victoria’s and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions’s agreement on a range of matters, including the type of animal welfare cases that RSPCA Victoria is responsible for investigating.

A copy of the MoU is available for download:

Local Government

Local government officers, if specifically authorised under the Act can investigate cruelty complaints in the municipality in which they are authorised.

If you have concerns about the operation of a domestic animal business such as a dog or cat breeder or pet shop you can report them to the local council in which the business operates or to the RSPCA.

Victoria Police

If there has been a road transport accident involving animals (for example a truck rollover) always call the police. Police can also investigate complaints of cruelty.

Information required for making a complaint

In order to investigate an animal cruelty report, Inspectors require as much information as possible so it is essential that you provide as many details as you can when making a complaint.

Information required when making a complaint:

  • Your details – your name, address and phone number. These may be required during the course of an investigation (for example to clarify information or obtain further information on the location of animals). Your details will be kept confidential by the inspector.
  • A description of the alleged cruelty – in as much detail as possible, a description of the animal(s) involved such as species, breed, colour, total number of animals and condition of the animals.
  • The location of the animals — an address point or GPS coordinates of the property the animals are located at.
  • Contact details for the people involved in the alleged offence – the name, address and phone number if known. If unknown a description of the person or people involved should be provided.
  • Any other information that may be of assistance to the inspector such as a vehicle registration number, photographic or video evidence. If you know that the people involved may be affected by drugs or alcohol or are likely to become violent you should inform the Inspector.

After a complaint is made

When a complaint is made, an inspector will examine the available evidence and determine whether an offence under animal welfare legislation is likely to have occurred or not.

Only officers authorised as inspectors under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 are legally able to investigate cruelty to animals. Inspectors (except police officers) must on demand produce an identification certificate. It is an offence to impersonate an inspector.

Following a complaint an inspector has the power to undertake any of the following actions depending on the outcome of their investigation:

  • take no further action, if there was no offending occurring under animal welfare legislation
  • provide education and advice
  • issue a formal notice to comply
  • collect evidence including requiring information from relevant persons
  • seize the animals
  • begin a prosecution

During an investigation a person must comply with the requirements to give information to inspectors as detailed in the Act. It is an offence to give false or misleading information. It is also an offence to assault, hinder or threaten an inspector.

Complainants are able to enquire as to the outcome of investigations but the investigating organisation may not be able to reveal the outcome in all cases.

In some instances, animal cruelty investigations result in prosecution. View the department's record of prosecutions.

Page last updated: 06 Aug 2020