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

The Animal Welfare Regulations that have recently come into effect make some really significant improvements to animal welfare standards in New Zealand. They are heartily welcomed by all of us who think it’s important to treat our animals well.

Most of the new regulations came into effect on 1stOctober 2018 and they make it much easier for offenders to be promptly punished for ill-treating animals.

Parts One and Two of this series described some of the infringement offences, and this article, Part Three, describes several tiers of more serious offences that could result in a criminal conviction and fines of $3000 to $5000 for an individual and up to $25,000 for a body corporate.

These offences include:

use of a vehicle, winch or similar traction for lambing or calving
castration and shortening the scrotum of cattle and sheep more than 6 months old without pain relief provided by or administered by a veterinarian
tail docking of cattle (except by a veterinarian because of injury or disease)

In another major animal welfare improvement:

disbudding of calves will require anaesthesia, either local or general, so it can only be carried out by a veterinarian or under veterinary supervision. To give farmers time to adjust to this requirement, it will not come into force until October 2019.

For dog owners:

tail docking of dogs is banned unless it is carried out by a veterinarian to treat a significant injury or disease.
only non-articulated (not containing a joint) dew claws can be removed by anyone (and only from pups up to 4 days of age). After that dew claws must be removed only by a veterinarian. Vets will still be able to remove articulated dew claws for welfare reasons (e.g. if they are damaged or torn).

For pig farmers:

tail docking of piglets over 7 days of age is veterinarian-only.

For some offences there will be a fine of up to $5000. These offences include:

Dehorning cattle without pain relief administered by a veterinarian
Mulesing sheep
Castrating a horse or pig without pain relief administered by a veterinarian

Use of fireworks at rodeos is to be banned too. Another very welcome improvement.

The new Regulations will make life more comfortable for battery hens and intensively farmed pigs. They set out transitional dates to phase out at last the use of battery cages for laying hens.

For pigs, some of the new regulations make relatively minor changes. For example they require farrowing crates to be large enough allow the sow to stand without contacting the bars, and they emphasise the need for farmers to meet the existing standards for lying space for grower pigs and for use of dry sow stalls (a maximum of a week). There is still room for improvement here.

By and large however, these are all very welcome changes. Here we can only present the bare bones of the new legislation but if you’d like to know more you can check out the details on the MPI website.