Inspectorate - FAQs and learning resources

What do I do if I witness animal cruelty?

If you have witnessed animal cruelty, including neglect or abandonment, you should report it via phone (03 9224 2222) or online form to the RSPCA Inspectorate team in the state or territory it took place. 

Can I remain anonymous when making a cruelty report?

Yes, you can remain anonymous. However, to investigate a cruelty complaint, RSPCA Inspectors require reasonable grounds to suspect that an animal cruelty offence has been committed. If you do not provide contact details, our Inspectors cannot gather more information if needed, such as further directions if the property or animal is difficult to locate, which may prevent us taking action.  

Any personal information provided remains strictly confidential and is protected by the Privacy Act 2000 and Privacy Act 1988. The details of the person making the report are never provided to the subject of a report.  

What happens when I make a report?

Based on the information provided to us, all animal cruelty reports are immediately prioritised into one of four categories: 

Critical cases 

Where the welfare of the animal is severely compromised and there is an urgent need to alleviate pain and suffering. We try to respond to these as soon as possible and these cases take priority over all other duties. 

Major cases 

Where the welfare of an animal has been or may be severely compromised and there is a need to take timely action to avoid pain and suffering. These cases are triaged and we respond to these cases as soon as practicable. 

Secondary cases 

Where indications are that the welfare of the animal is only marginally compromised or where the incident is of a less serious nature. We respond as soon as practicable, however major cases are prioritised over these reports. 

Minor cases  

Where indications are that the welfare of the animal is not compromised and where the incident is of a lesser nature. Action may involve local knowledge, a visit when in the area, telephone contact or no action at all. 

Will an Inspector visit the property I have reported?

RSPCA Victoria Inspectors will investigate all reports, which in most cases involves a site visit. This will depend on the individual case and circumstances, depending on the priority assigned to the case. In some areas of regional Victoria, we may ask local police or government animal welfare officers to assist. 

What action will RSPCA take against the animal's owner?

The first priority of RSPCA Inspectors is always animal welfare. 

Our mission is to prevent cruelty, so we do seek to educate owners on providing better care for their animals. When that is not possible, we aim to prevent further suffering and place the animal in an environment where they will receive ongoing care and protection. 

Our Inspectors may legally take any of the following actions: 

  • Offer advice and assistance to the owner 
  • Issue a warning letter and follow up with spot checks to ensure the advice and/or recommendations have been implemented 
  • Issue the owner with a Notice to Comply, which requires the owner to take action as instructed by the Inspector 
  • Ongoing engagement and work with the owner for the best outcome for the animal 
  • Seize the animal/s if the Inspector believes that the animal is currently or in immediate danger of suffering harm and there are grounds under POCTAA 
  • Prosecute the owner for a breach of POCTAA or DAA. 

What happens after an animal is seized by an Inspector?

Animals seized in connection with alleged animal cruelty offences may be held in RSPCA care until court proceedings are finalised or until the owner agrees to surrender the animal to RSPCA Victoria. 

When an animal cruelty offender is convicted by a local court, RSPCA Victoria can seek the costs associated with the care of the animals. 

Other orders we can seek from the court include: 

  • A 24x order that awards custody of the animals to RSPCA Victoria 
  • A banning order that prohibits the offender from owning or being in charge of specified animals for a specified period of time – this can also require convicted people to rehome other animals in their care 
  • Control or supervision orders for specified periods of time. 

What happens when an Inspector decides to prosecute an owner?

When animal cruelty offences or breaches of the animal welfare Codes of Practice are detected, Inspectors may seize animals and items connected with offences. As part of the investigation into alleged animal welfare or cruelty offences, our Inspectors will offer an alleged offender an opportunity to participate in a record of interview. Depending on the nature, duration, significance and ongoing impacts of the alleged offending, there are a number of possible outcomes. 

An alleged offender could be: 

  • Served with court attendance notice/s requiring them to attend court and face criminal charges 
  • Issued with fine/s or Penalty Infringement Notice/s for the alleged offence 
  • Issued with an advisory letter or notice to comply 
  • Dismissed with no action. 

I am unhappy with the result of an investigation, what can I do?

It is important to remember that POCTAA is set by Victorian Government legislation and penalties that are handed down in court are determined by Magistrates that preside over the cases. RSPCA Victoria does not have authority to determine a specific sentence once a case goes to court.

If you have made a report to RSPCA Victoria and you believe an animal is still at risk, we encourage you to submit a further cruelty report with any additional information that may help us investigate.  

Can I find out what happens to a report I made?

Due to privacy and legal constraints, we are only able to provide confirmation that a report has been received.