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Animals (Basel). 2019 Dec 11;9(12). pii: E1121. doi: 10.3390/ani9121121.

Animal Cruelty and Neglect: Prevalence and Community Actions in Victoria, Australia.

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Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, the University of Melbourne, Animal Welfare Science Centre, North Melbourne, VIC 3051, Australia.
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Victoria, Burwood East, VIC 3151, Australia.


While animal mistreatment is common worldwide, its true scale is largely unknown. Currently, organisations rely on community reporting (case data) and trends found therein to inform prevention activities. To investigate the prevalence, types, and responses to animal mistreatment in Victoria, we conducted a representative telephone survey (n = 1801) across six Local Government Areas (LGAs); three with high numbers of RSPCA reported cases and three demographically similar areas with low numbers of such cases. Overall, 25.7% of people surveyed had witnessed at least one incident of mistreatment in the last 12 months, with those relating to neglect or poor management predominating. No differences in prevalence were found between LGAs when socio-economic index and local government comparator group were controlled for. However, participants in regional cities recalled witnessing more separate incidents than those in metropolitan or interface areas. Actions taken after witnessing mistreatment were varied, yet many participants did nothing (27%) and only 9% reported to RSPCA Victoria. Attitudes to reporting were positive but did not predict reporting behaviour. Together, these results demonstrate that case data are not reliable indicators of the true prevalence of animal mistreatment; it is common and grossly underreported, highlighting the need for effective, evidence-based prevention programs.


animal mistreatment; animal welfare; attitudes; cruelty; neglect; prevalence; prevention; reporting

Conflict of interest statement

One of the funders (RSPCA Victoria) was involved in the design of the study and the decision to publish. The funders had no role in the collection or analysis of the data. Input into the interpretation of the data was provided by the second author only (employed by the funder) and did not differ from the interpretations made by the other authors.

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