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Tightening up on animal welfare standards – new Animal Welfare Act Regulations Part One

dogRecently announced Animal Welfare Regulations highlight certain management standards that are expected of animal owners and make them more readily and quickly enforceable. Good news for those of us who really care about animals and their welfare.

The Animal Welfare Act 1999 sets general standards for animal owners and ‘persons in charge’ to safeguard their animals’ welfare. Much of the detail of what is expected is described in the Codes of Welfare, for example the Code of Welfare for Dogs and the Code of Welfare for Horses. The Act can provide only a general framework, and much of the detail is presented in these complementary Codes.

The standards can be used to influence prosecution verdicts, but they have not necessarily been legally enforceable.

By October next year the new Regulations will be in force and directly enforceable by Animal Welfare Inspectors from the SPCA or the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), who can impose fines of $300 without the need for protracted and costly court proceedings.

Here are some of the new Regulations relating to dogs, goats, horses, donkeys, camelids and pigs.


Dog muzzles must enable the dog to pant, drink and vomit (eg basket-type muzzles). Tight muzzles are only to be used for very short periods of time. It will also be an offence if a muzzle causes injury to the skin.

Dogs confined to areas where they are habitually kept must have an area large enough to provide shade, that is dry, fully shaded and draught-free, and that provides protection from extremes of heat and cold. Dogs must always have access to clean drinking water and be able to urinate and defaecate away from their lying area, and excreta must not be allowed to accumulate in this area.

No dogs must be left unattended in a vehicle in conditions in which it may suffer heat stress.

No dog must be tethered on the flat deck of a vehicle unless enclosed in a crate or secured so that its legs don’t reach over the sides of the deck while still allowing it to lie down and turn around. (However this doesn’t apply to farm dogs that have to jump on and off the deck while managing livestock.)


Goats that are tethered must at all times have access to food, water and fully shaded and dry shelter.

Horses and donkeys:

Owners must not allow a halter, head rope or any other piece of equipment used on the body to cause injuries that are bleeding or discharging or injuries that cause swelling on the head or neck. A horse or donkey that is tethered for grazing must at all times have access to food and water and adequate protection from extremes of weather.


Owners are liable to be fined if a camelid’s halter or any other piece of equipment causes cuts, abrasions, swelling or interference with breathing or drinking.


Owners must ensure that at all times their pigs have a lying area that is dry and draught-free.

For all animals:

The collar or tether must not cause cuts, abrasions, swelling or restriction of breathing, eating or panting.

The next article will deal with new Regulations relating to infringement offences that are deemed to be slightly more serious than those described here. While still not likely to result in a criminal conviction they may attract a bigger $500 fine.

More detailed information on the regulations can be found here.

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