A video of a man punching a kangaroo has gone viral. To be fair, the bloke was trying to save his dog, but considering the RSPCA is investigating the matter, we can only assume people raised concerns about animal cruelty. Which begs the question: is it legal to punch a kangaroo, even if it’s in self-defence? Read on to find out.
Kangaroos are a protected species in Australia but shooters can obtain licences to kill them (with restrictions) in areas where they are considered pests. Permission to cull kangaroos in large numbers can also be granted by the government and is strictly regulated.
While they're much loved as Australia's national animal and are generally considered harmless, kangaroos have the ability to disembowel their opponents thanks to a pair of powerful hind legs that sport sharp toenails. They have been known to kill dogs and hurt humans but these are not common occurrences.
This week, a video of a man punching a kangaroo in the face to save his dog has emerged and has since gone viral:
[Video removed as it is no longer available.]
Undoubtedly it's an amusing video but some people may view the action as cruel.
Lifehacker Australia talked to an RSPCA spokesperson about the video itself and was informed that the organisation is already investigating the incident.
The definition of "cruelty" according to animal legislation in each state is the roughly described as causing pain that is "unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable in the circumstances". Obviously, that includes physically harming the animal.
There is no national legislation that applies to animal cruelty but there are defined laws in each state that address the issue with possible fines and jail terms. The RSPCA breaks them down here for each state.
In every state, cruelty against animals is illegal so punching a kangaroo willy-nilly is definitely not allowed. If you are punching a kangaroo in self-defence and end up being taken to court over it, you may be granted an exception but you'll need to show the magistrate that your action was reasonable and necessary. (Note: Someone rightly pointed out that it's up to the prosecution to prove that your action was unreasonable and unnecessary. Obviously you'll still need to defend against that if it really was in self-defence.)
What To Do If You Are Threatened Or Attacked By A Kangaroo?
In the heat of the moment, when you're trying to defend yourself or your pet against a kangaroo attack, it might seem like a good idea to just fight the animal. But you could be jeopardising your own safety (again, sharp toenails used to disembowel opponents…) and, if you can't prove it was for self-defence, you could end up in legal trouble.
According to the Office of Environment & Heritage: "A kangaroo will attack a person as if they were another kangaroo. It may push or grapple with its forepaws or sit back and kick out with its hind legs. As resulting injuries can be serious, avoiding conflict with kangaroos is vital."
If you feel threatened by a kangaroo, the government agency recommends that you to avoid attracting its attention and keep your head and arms low:
"Wait until the kangaroo has moved away before continuing on your way. If you need to, carefully retreat in a crouched or crawling position to a safe location or distance away. If you can, position an object such as a tree or fence between you and the kangaroo and call for help. Alert your helper to the potential danger.
"If you are attacked, drop to the ground and curl into a ball with your hands protecting your face and throat. Try to remain calm and still until the animal moves away, or if you can, keep low to the ground and move behind some form of cover."