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Explaining the Gap Between the Ambitious Goals and Practical Reality of Animal Welfare Law Enforcement: A Review of the Enforcement Gap in Australia

School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Roseworthy Campus, Roseworthy 5371, Australia
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Animals 2020, 10(3), 482; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10030482
Received: 12 December 2019 / Revised: 4 March 2020 / Accepted: 11 March 2020 / Published: 13 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Legal Aspects of the Human-Animal Relationship)
Animal cruelty or neglect is an emotive social issue. Animal welfare legislation is the primary tool for defining, penalizing and hopefully deterring animal cruelty. A number of issues arising at all stages of the animal law enforcement process have been previously identified. These issues contribute to a discrepancy between the written law and the realities of the animal law enforcement process: the ‘enforcement gap’. This paper reviews the available resources to identify the causes of this ‘gap’. It is argued that the ‘gap’ is caused by numerous factors derived from all stages of the enforcement process: (1) reporting acts of animal cruelty, (2) ambiguity and shortcomings derived from the language used in animal welfare legislation (3) the nature of enforcement authorities, and (4) court determination on the matter. In order to reduce the enforcement gap and bring the expectations closer to reality, further research is needed.
Previous research has identified a number of issues arising at all stages of the animal law enforcement process. These issues contribute to an enforcement gap between the written law, as it relates to the penalties laid out in statutes, and the reality of the animal law justice system. This paper identifies and investigates the contributors to this gap. The identified factors discussed are (1) the role of the public in reporting animal cruelty, (2) the ambiguity of the language used in animal welfare legislation, (3) the nature of enforcement authorities, and (4) the role of the courts. Thus, the causes of the enforcement gap are multifactorial, derived from all stages of the enforcement process. Further research on the enforcement model and public education, in addition to debate on legislative reforms, will be needed to address this gap. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare legislation; animal cruelty; law enforcement; Australia; enforcement gap animal welfare legislation; animal cruelty; law enforcement; Australia; enforcement gap
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Morton, R.; Hebart, M.L.; Whittaker, A.L. Explaining the Gap Between the Ambitious Goals and Practical Reality of Animal Welfare Law Enforcement: A Review of the Enforcement Gap in Australia. Animals 2020, 10, 482.

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