Increase in animal abuse reports during COVID-19 shut down period

RRSPCA Victoria has seen an increase in the number of cruelty reports involving intentional acts of cruelty toward animals during the COVID-19 shutdown period.

For the period of March – May 2020, which encompassed the stay at home direction from the Victorian State Government, RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate received 385 reports involving intentional acts of cruelty.

When compared to the same period last year, this equates to a 16% increase in reports involving beating, wounding, tormenting or terrifying Victorian animals.

This increase in reports of intentional acts of cruelty may correlate with the undue stress and uncertainty experienced by the community during the COVID-19 social isolation period and the predicted rise in domestic and family violence.

A recent report from Monash University, titled Responding to the ‘Shadow Pandemic,’ stated that with more people confined to their homes to reduce the community spread of COVID-19, there is a greater risk of violence against women and children.*

RSPCA Victoria recognises the link between child abuse, domestic violence and cruelty to animals, and that cruelty to animals may be a precursor to or occur alongside other forms of violence.

RSPCA Victoria’s Head of Inspectorate, Terry Ness said, “The links between animal abuse and domestic violence and abuse are complex, however, numerous studies have confirmed that in households experiencing domestic violence and abuse, where companion animals are present there is also a high probability of animal abuse.

“Animal abuse can involve hitting and/or kicking, causing injury or death or severe neglect leading to starvation. Many abused animals are not provided with appropriate veterinary care, thus leading to ongoing suffering,” said Mr Ness.

It is an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTAA) to wound, abuse, beat or torment an animal, or to commit any act that may result in unreasonable pain or suffering. Anyone who is found guilty of such an act can face fines up to $41,305 or 12-months’ imprisonment or, if the offence results in the death or serious disablement of the animal, fines of up to $82,610 or two years’ imprisonment. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, animal cruelty continues. It has never been more important for RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectors to continue their important work investigating animal cruelty across the state.

Anyone who has concerns about the welfare of an animal is encouraged to make a report to our Inspectorate via our website at or by calling us on 9224 2222.

* Monash University – Responding to the ‘Shadow Pandemic’

/Public Release. View in full here.