The NZ Animal Welfare Act

Not until I studied Vet Nursing in 2016, was I made aware that all pet owners have legal, moral and ethical obligations, written in a document called the NZ Animal Welfare Act.
This made me think it was more than likely, that most kiwis (pet owners or not), were unaware of the NZ Animal Welfare Act.
Animal abuse and neglect is a huge problem in NZ. If all humans grew up educated on , abided by the codes of conduct (explained below), and were made legally accountable with strong penalties, animal abuse and neglect would not be so prominent.

The SPCA provides the following information on their website.

What is the Animal Welfare Act?

The Animal Welfare Act 1999 (The Act) sets out how people should take care of and act towards animals, and is jointly enforced by SPCA, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Police.

The Act is a clear statement to New Zealanders – and to the rest of the world – that animals are sentient and that in New Zealand they have a right to proper and sufficient care.

What’s in the Animal Welfare Act?

The Act establishes a duty upon the owners or persons in charge of animals to care for those animals properly.
It sets out the obligations of animal owners or people in charge of animals. They have to meet an animal’s physical, health and behavioural needs, and must alleviate pain or distress.

The Act defines ‘physical, health, and behavioural needs’ as:

  • proper and sufficient food
  • proper and sufficient water
  • adequate shelter
  • the opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour
  • appropriate physical handling
  • protection from, and rapid diagnosis of, injury and disease.

Ill treatment or neglect of animals is a crime, and this is also defined in the Act.
The Act contains provisions to prevent ill treatment and inadequate care of animals. It also regulates the use of traps and devices that have the potential to cause pain or distress to animals.

Codes of Welfare

The Animal Welfare Act does not provide detailed requirements – instead, these are contained in regulations and Codes of Welfare. Codes are issued under the Act and contain minimum standards and recommended best practice.

Codes are issued by the Minister for Primary Industries and have important roles in helping to set best practices and high standards of animal care.

The Codes outline minimum standards for care and handling of animals. These standards have legal effect in two ways:

  • Our Inspectors can use evidence of someone failing to meet a minimum standard to support a prosecution for an offence under the Act
  • A person who is charged with an offence against the Act can defend themselves by showing that they have met or exceeded minimum standards

Also included in the Codes are recommended best practices. These encourage everyone to not just achieve minimum standards as required by the law, but to aim to improve the welfare of their animals by adopting best practice.

What Codes are available?

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has put together 16 Codes of Welfare that include minimum standards, guidance information and recommended best practices for animal welfare.

These Codes cover animals from dogs to dairy cattle, and situations such as animal rodeos and painful husbandry procedures. You can find the full list (with amendments) on the Ministry for Primary Industries website.

What if you suspect a breach of the Act or a Code of Welfare?

If you believe the Animal Welfare Act 1999 or a minimum standard of care in any of these Codes of Welfare is being breached by a person or an organisation and you would like to make a report, please call your local SPCA Centre or the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 00 83 33.

Welfare certificate needed to export live animals

The Act makes it an offence to export a live animal without an animal welfare export certificate (although there are some exemptions for low-risk situations, like short flights). This ensures that any animal welfare risks faced by the animals during their travel are minimised.

An order made under the Customs and Excise Act 1996 prohibits the export of live animals for slaughter, unless the risks to New Zealand’s trade reputation can be adequately managed.

Animals in research, testing and teaching.

The Act sets out an ethical framework for the use of animals in research, testing, and teaching. Before a project using animals can take place, it must be approved by an animal ethics committee, which is also responsible for monitoring the project. Every project that uses animals must demonstrate that the benefits of the research (for example, to the maintenance of human health or the production and productivity of animals) are not outweighed by the likely harm to the animals being used for research.

However, for all of the above, the Animal Welfare Act does not provide detailed requirements on how to meet these needs – instead, these requirements are covered in Animal Welfare Regulations and Codes of Welfare.

Return to Dear humans – Legal obligations for dog owners

Dog owners, are you qualified to use a bark/shock collar on your dog?

These are commonly used by dog owners for various reasons. Excessive barking, jumping, running away or chasing a smaller animal, basically any unwanted behavior. The action of using any type of collar to improve unwanted behaviors, has always been under dispute whether it is negative or positive reinforcement.

Dog owners, please read these important articles.

Are Remote Collars Punishment, Negative Reinforcement, or Motivators?
The most important statement in this article is: The reality is: how the dog will perceive the sensation of stimulation is entirely dependent on the operator and how he chooses to use the too

Dog Shock Collar – New Research Adds To Evidence That They Don’t Work
This provides an interesting study of whether collars are successful when teaching new behaviors. In summary, the answer is no.

Lets return to this,

The reality is: how the dog will perceive the sensation of stimulation is entirely dependent on the operator and how he chooses to use the tool.
Just like driving a car, the success relies on the ability and expertise of the driver, and of course having a license.
Because we don’t need a license to use collars, its up to dog owners to engage in the learning, and “best practice” methods. The safety and well being of your dog is the priority.

Please remember that collars can create different unwanted behaviors, and can cause stress and anxiety in your dog. Please ask the professionals their advice, specifically for your dog and the behavior you want to change. If cost is a problem, keep asking other dog owners who have overcome similar problems. There is a lot of free training online with regards to positive reinforcement. Patience, knowledge, practice and some yummy treats may be all you need.

If you do have a dog that could be a risk to other dogs, small animals, or humans. Using a collar can be very effective and necessary, when in the right hands. Having a collar on a dog with major behavior issues, can be a safety, or last resort method if any dangerous situation occurs, and your dog has not listened to your previous commands.

Choose K9 Control if you need to purchase a collar of any kind. These are of high quality and design, very important when the well being of your dog is the priority. Before buying a collar, please speak to the experts on which one is best and what training you will need.

Please be kind to your dogs, no matter what behaviors they develop.

On Lead, Dog Politics

When our dog’s on a lead, politics will always occur when meeting other dogs. Why?

When your dog’s on a lead, he is technically not free to fight or flight, which makes him vulnerable when meeting other dogs (whether they are on or off lead).
Dogs have a specific “dance” or ritual they undertake when meeting each other, this initially involves sniffing the others face, then walking round to their backside. If this meeting opportunity is limited, or directed by a human holding a lead, it can often create anxiety, confusion or fear, which can turn to aggression.

If a human is nervous or fearful while their dog’s on a lead, these feelings will be transmitted through the lead to the dog. The dog will often want to protect a nervous or fearful human, meaning the dog may try and dominate other dogs, this can be shown in various behaviors.

As a pack walker I often have dogs off lead at a dog park, and will meet an owner with their dog on lead. A common reaction in humans is to be nervous at what may happen. As the owner of the dog on lead you want to set your dog up to succeed when meeting other dogs. If you can drop the lead, please do so (unless your pup is a runner). This allows your dog to be free, enabling him/her to show and read doggy body language while approaching other dogs, and be able to do the meeting dance with whom they choose.

Recommended read How Should a Dog Behave When Meeting Other Dogs? Published by The Nest

Recommended read How to Introduce Your Dog to a New Dog. Published by American Kennel Club

Return to the Dear Humans website

Black Faced Dogs: Tips for Communicating Correctly

The face is a very expressive part of the body, both human and dog. Have you ever noticed that your dog has reacted adversely to black faced dogs?

The face, the tail, and body posture are how dogs mostly read each other when on approach. Unfortunately, black faced dogs, or those wearing a muzzle or nose harness, are at a disadvantage. Subtle facial movements such as eyebrows and eyes are not distinguished so well. Not being able to read the whole face may make other dogs wary or even reactive.

Also, think about the dogs who have their tails docked by humans. This is also a disadvantage because the tail is very expressive in showing a dog’s state and its emotion.

Interesting reading: How to read dog body language and Through the eyes of your dog.

Conversations at the dog park

Being a dog walker and pet educator, I spend a lot of my day in dog parks walking and talking with dog owners. Every dog provides a new conversation. Its my passion to observe as many dogs as possible, and listen to their owners conversations about what does and doesn’t work for their dog. Whether it be about their dogs behavior, breed, personality, tricks, problems, health issues, …..everything.
All conversations are an exchange of vital information that all dog owners will benefit from knowing.

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