The Offence of Stealing Animals Ordinarily Kept in Confinement in NSW

Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


Let’s face it, piglets are pretty darn cute.

Sure, they may not be for everyone.

But if you ask us, it’s hard not to be enticed by their adorable baby-pig size, their playful nature, enthusiastic outlook, even their vocabulary of oinks, snorts and squeals.

For one Canberra man, the appeal was seemingly all too much after he was discovered with four stolen baby piglets in the backyard of the Canberra property he was residing at back in August 2020, which were pinched from Yarralumla Play Station.

But, in strange turn of events, the man, who accused of stealing the little creatures and even arrested, was cleared of his charges in relation to the theft.


August 2020: How the Stolen Piglets Came to be Discovered

Back in August 2020, police were informed of four piglets stolen from the Yarralumla Play Station in Canberra, and after investigations, a week later, were led to a property in Deakin.

Using a drone to peer closely, police confirmed the presence of the piglets in the backyard, and following this, went on to arrest 39-year-old Canberra man, Owen Van Duren, who resided at the property.

The man was not charged with theft but instead with possessing stolen property.

Meanwhile, a further search of the house also led to the discovery of a hoard of prohibited guns, crossbows and an illegal cannabis crop in a shed in the garden – leading to the man also being charged with possession of prohibited weapons and cannabis.

Nevertheless, Mr Van Duren insisted to police that he did not live at the home – and thus that the stolen piglets and prohibited goods were not his property.

Police, however, went on to find documents inside the house, including a card addressed to Mr Van Duren and his partner, and even photos of him placed around a bedroom, that evidenced the man lived in the house.

And even though Mr Van Duren’s fingerprints were also unearthed on a light above the cannabis crop, in addition to his partner telling police he had requested her to feed some scraps of food to the piglets, Mr Van Duren continued to maintain that he did not live at the house, and so could not possess any of the items that were found.

Mr Van Duren was summoned to the ACT Magistrates Court to deal with the matter, while the stolen piglets were returned to their mother at Yarralumla the following week.


Magistrate Finds Stolen Piglets’ Connection to Mr Van Duren Uncertain

 On Thursday 4 March 2021, Mr Van Duren faced ACT Magistrates Court where it was heard that the house belonged to his brother.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston told the court that despite his partner being inside the property, it was not certain if he had just dropped her off or moved in.

Ultimately, while the magistrate found the piglets had evidently been stolen, their connection to Mr Van Duren was indeterminate.

“It’s a reasonable possibility those items were in the care and control of another person, possibly [his brother],” Magistrate Theakston said.

“It’s very difficult for me to form a view that he was an occupier of the house on the day, beyond reasonable doubt.”

“The real question is whether or not the defendant had control of the piglets at the time.”

Mr Theakston applied the same thinking to the possession of the firearms and crossbow.

As the magistrate found it could not be proven Mr Van Duren lived at the house where the stolen piglets were found, he was found not guilty of the charges and allowed to walk free from court.

The Offence of Stealing Animals Ordinarily Kept in Confinement in NSW

It may come as a surprise, but in NSW, animals etc ordinarily kept in confinement are protected by the law and it is indeed an offence to steal them.

Specifically, this is reflected in section 505 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which makes clear that it is an offence for a person to steals any animal or bird ordinarily kept in a state of confinement, or for any domestic purpose, but not being the subject of larceny at Common Law, or to kill any such animal or bird with intent to steal the same, or any part thereof.

The penalty for an offence is up to six months in jail, or a fine of $550, or both.

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