Cattle theft

Cattle theft is an ongoing problem in Australia, and has been for over 200 years.

The Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) collaborates with Northern Territory Police for investigations into stock theft and ownership disputes in accordance with public service and legislative requirements. Theft of property, which includes theft of cattle, is a criminal offence under the Northern Territory Criminal Code Act 1983 and is managed by NT Police.

The Department’s Livestock Biosecurity Branch provide assistance to NT Police with alleged offences of cattle theft or ownership disputes. Regional and remotely based police officers liaise with Regional Livestock Biosecurity Officers when investigating reports of stock theft within the region.

To ensure that reports of stock theft are formally reported and due investigation process is followed, Livestock Biosecurity Officers advise livestock owners to contact the NT Police to report any alleged instances of theft.

The Northern Territory Livestock Act 2008 and Livestock Regulations administered by the department underpins the livestock identification and movement requirements for livestock in the NT. This includes:

  • brands
  • waybills
  • NT Health Certificates (including waybills)
  • Declared Area Movement Permits
  • National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).

There is one provision under the Livestock Act 2008 which refers to livestock ownership. Section 132 (3) of the Livestock Act 2008 states:

“A registered brand or earmark on livestock or hides that are proved not to be owned by the owner of the registered brand or earmark (the brand owner) is evidence that the brand owner branded or marked the livestock or hides knowing he or she did not own the livestock at the time they were branded or marked.”

A registered brand on cattle is prima facie evidence of livestock ownership. Livestock biosecurity officers provide information which supports the determination of livestock ownership in investigations into stock theft and ownership disputes.

The department will continue to provide assistance to NT Police for investigations relating to stock theft in the Territory.

In cases of theft, please call the Northern Territory Police on 131444.

Last updated: 28 September 2020

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