NEW crime data shows Horsham has the highest rate of animal cruelty offences reported to police across the state.
However the city’s leading animal welfare group believes the figures do not adequately reflect animal neglect and cruelty.
Crime Statistics Agency figures show places with the postcode 3400 – which includes Horsham and surrounding areas – had three cases of animal cruelty recorded by police in 2018, a rate of 20.56 incidents per 100,000 people.
The data shows there were 12 animal cruelty reports to police in the past 10 years.
The agency statistics come after the RSPCA released its own data on Monday, which showed there were 40 reports of animal cruelty in the Horsham Rural City area in the past financial year.
Horsham PAWS president Penny Stemp said none of the figures reflected the severity of the problem.
“Everyone’s definition of animal cruelty is different, but I see neglect as cruelty, and we see a lot more of that,” she said.
“I don’t think most people would contact police in terms of animal cruelty. I think people would ring the council rangers in our area, and that’s certainly who I would refer anyone to instead of the police.”
A person can be charged with animal cruelty if they cause an animal unreasonable pain or suffering.
This can involve injuring or abusing an animal, or failing to provide them with sufficient food, drink, medical treatment or shelter.
Penalties range from fines and community work to jail terms of up to two years.
Ms Stemp says Horsham PAWS was aware of about 10 cases of neglect in the past two weeks alone.
“People who don’t feed their animals properly, let them breed indiscriminately, keep them tied up… there was a person who had their dog picked up for wandering and they weren’t prepared to pay the pound release fee,” she said.
“I think it’s a huge problem – a lot bigger than three cases in 12 months.”
Ms Stemp says while there had not been an increase in overall calls of neglect to Horsham PAWS this year, the numbers remained high.
She believes better education is the key to addressing this.
“There is legislation about the provision of basic care for animals and livestock, which can be found on the Agriculture Victoria website,” she said.
Ms Stemp also urged anyone considering buying a pet for Christmas to think twice.
“If you’re not going to look after your dog or cat, if you haven’t got the money to care for it, don’t get one,” she said.
Wimmera Police Superintendent Paul Margetts said rates of animal cruelty were likely to be higher in the region given the larger number of animals compared with other regions.
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