Codes of Welfare
Everyone in New Zealand has a responsibility for the care of, and conduct towards animals. The legislation this responsibility falls under is the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (The Act). A number of guides have been produced to give you a brief overview of: the Act and, in particular, Part 6 (17011 KB) which relates to the use of animals in research, testing and teaching. Codes of Welfare are also produced to help clearly explain your obligations.
The primary legislation relating to animals in New Zealand is The Animal Welfare Act 1999 . It sets obligations for people who own or are in charge of animals, in order to meet the animal’s physical, health and behavioural needs and to alleviate pain and distress.
However, The Act doesn’t expand on these obligations; for example, it doesn’t detail what constitutes an appropriate amount of food or water for any particular species. To include this information in the Act would make it a very lengthy and unwieldy legislation.
So, to help you do this, codes of welfare are produced for either a particular species, particular function, or for animals used in entertainment.
Issued by the Minister for Primary Industries (under the Animal Welfare Act 1999), codes of welfare have an important role in improving animal welfare standards in New Zealand, and establish best practices to ensure high standards of animal care. Importantly, codes also outline minimum standards for care and handling of animals. Minimum standards have legal effect and in two possible ways because:
- evidence of a failure to meet a relevant minimum standard may be used to support a prosecution for an offence under the Animal Welfare Act
- a person who is charged with an offence against the Act can defend him/herself by showing that he/she has equalled or exceeded minimum standards
Codes of welfare must be reviewed at least every 10 years.
What are recommended best practices and why have them?
Recommended best practices are included in codes of welfare to encourage everyone to not just achieve minimum standards, but to aim to improve the welfare of their animals by adopting best practice.
A code of welfare will outline basic levels of animal management and care required when in charge of a specific type of animal, but is flexible enough to be modified and improved as community expectations, scientific knowledge and technical advances allow.
What codes of welfare have been issued?
Yes, there are also other publications called Codes of Recommendations and Minimum Standards. These are voluntary guidelines that were produced before the Animal Welfare Act 1999 came into force.
When individual codes of welfare are developed, they replace the older, corresponding Codes of Recommendations and Minimum Standards. Eventually, these older publications will be phased out completely.
The process of developing a code is detailed in the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (sections 68-79) which you can find out more about by visiting this page.
To understand how codes are developed and how you can have your say, visit this page.
Page last updated: 21 February 2013