March 17 2014
Better enforcement, clarity and transparency
The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill is currently at the select committee stage, with the committee due to report back to Parliament at the end of March. This article looks at what changes the new legislation will make for animals and their owners.
The Animal Welfare Act 1999 provides the framework for regulating the welfare of animals and preventing their ill treatment. The amendment bill sets out to rectify some of the problems that have been identified with the current legislation. In particular, there are proposed changes relating to enforcement, clarity and transparency.
Part of the Act’s framework is that it provides for ‘codes of welfare’ to be prescribed, which sets out minimum standards for the care of animals. Currently, those codes aren’t directly enforceable so the new Amendment Bill gives Parliament the ability to regulate and specify mandatory and enforceable animal welfare standards.
An example could be the recent controversy relating to the use of blunt force to euthanise bobby calves on farms. Nathan Guy, the Minister of Primary Industries, announced on 27 February this year that he has asked the National Animal Advisory Committee (NAWAC) to consider an amendment to the Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010. He stated that, “The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill is currently before the Select Committee … It allows for the creation of enforceable regulations that will complement the minimum standards contained within New Zealand’s 16 codes of welfare.”
In addition, the Amendment Bill introduces ‘compliance orders’ that will require a person to stop or start doing something.
Currently, an animal welfare inspector needs to believe an animal is suffering, or likely to suffer, before steps can be taken. Inspectors are likely to be given clearer powers to gather evidence by taking photos and video recordings, as well as taking samples from living and dead animals.
Under the current Act, there are no mandatory standards for live animal exports. The Amendment Bill provides for new regulations which will contain these mandatory standards with offences and penalties for non-compliance.
There are also be likely to be new regulations relating to surgical and painful procedures which could:
- Prohibit specific surgical or painful procedures
- Provide mandatory standards for any surgical or painful procedure, and
- Declare certain surgical procedures to be not subject to the legislation.
Under the transparency aspect of the Bill, currently the NAWAC doesn’t have express power to consider ‘practicality’ and ‘economic impact’ when developing minimum standards and codes of welfare. The Bill makes it explicit that those are matters that can be considered, although they cannot override animal welfare considerations.
In recent years there have been an increased number of prosecutions under the current animal welfare legislation as a result of ill-treatment of animals. Should the Bill be passed into law, inspectors will have greater powers to control behaviour and to gather evidence. Also, there will be more specific and obligatory standards of animal welfare that can be enforced by a greater range of fines.
The probable changes to the implementation of rules relating to live animal exports and surgical and painful procedures means that some practices currently carried out may need to be modified. It is interesting to note, however, that ‘practicality’ and ‘economic impact’ are now factors in developing minimum standards which will give some reassurance to those at the coal face.