Animal Welfare Legislation and Standards
SPCA advocates for the term ‘physical, health and behavioural needs’ in the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to be redefined. SPCA advocates for animal welfare standards to be clear and enforceable.
SPCA advocates for the term ‘physical, health and behavioural needs’ in the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to be redefined.
The definition of physical, health and behavioural needs is central to the function of the Animal Welfare Act. The current definition of physical, health and behavioural needs is based on the Five Freedoms. Scientific understanding of animals has progressed markedly since the Act was drafted and animal welfare should be understood in terms of both negative and positive mental states.
SPCA advocates that the Five Domains model should inform legislation and standards.
SPCA advocates for animal welfare standards to be clear and enforceable.
SPCA is an approved organisation under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, with responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the Act and regulations in partnership with MPI. Both agencies employ fully warranted animal welfare inspectors appointed by the Director-General of MPI under the Act.
SPCA does not set animal welfare standards such as codes of welfare. Codes of welfare are issued by the Minister responsible for animal welfare under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and set detailed minimum standards for specific species and activities.
Codes of welfare are not directly enforceable, but whether or not someone has met minimum standards can be used as evidence in a prosecution. Prosecutions under the Act are expensive and time-consuming. SPCA’s enforcement function does not receive adequate government funding, and largely relies on donations to fulfil its duties under the Animal Welfare Act.
The limitations of current legislation and standards can also hamper enforcement. Where appropriate, SPCA supports directly enforceable regulations as an effective and efficient tool for animal welfare compliance.
SPCA advocates that codes of welfare must remain up-to-date and based on the latest scientific evidence.
Codes of welfare are issued by the Minister responsible for animal welfare under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to provide minimum standards, recommendations for best practice, and guidance for people in charge of animals.
SPCA considers that many codes of welfare are out of date with current science and best practice, even though they are promoted as being flexible enough to be modified and improved as community expectations, good practice, scientific knowledge and technical advances allow. Successful legal challenges against the codes have shown that they need urgent review.
SPCA advocates that minimum standards in codes of welfare should take into account the sentience of animals.
SPCA supports the consideration of animal sentience whenever standards are developed under the Act. This means that standards should be set to protect animals for their own sake rather than to promote human interests such as export earnings or trading reputation.
Standards should aim to minimise the experience of avoidable negative emotions in animals (such as fear, anxiety, helplessness and loneliness) and require opportunities for normal behaviour and positive experiences (such as play, exploration, comfort and appropriate social interaction).
SPCA advocates for increased penalties for animal welfare offending, and research into reoffending prevention such as rehabilitation programmes.
SPCA can take prosecutions under the Act, but does not set punishments – the Courts do.
People convicted of offences against animals can be disqualified from owning animals, but this provision is seldom used, and the ban periods are typically short.
Reoffending rates are high for animal abuse offences but there are currently no proven effective methods for preventing reoffending.