SPCA New Zealand

SPCA supportive of a “prompt and substantive review” of all animal welfare secondary legislation

02 August 2023

Released yesterday, a report by the Regulations Review Committee recommended the Government conduct a prompt and substantive review of the process for developing secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, following “many complaints”.

SPCA supportive of a “prompt and substantive review” of all animal welfare secondary legislation

SPCA welcomes these recommendations, particularly following a legal challenge of the Pig Code of Welfare in 2020 which found that some animal welfare standards were “unlawful and invalid”.

SPCA Scientific Officer, Marie McAninch, says this signals a very positive step in the right direction in addressing the current challenges within the system.

“SPCA has long been advocating for more frequent reviews of the secondary animal welfare legislation, some of which is fast falling out of date with current science and best practice,” says Ms McAninch. “We are so pleased to see this step and look forward to working alongside Government to assist in the process. Acting as the voice for the animals, we feel strongly that animal welfare needs to be at the center of decision making.”

The secondary legislation refers to regulations (which are directly enforceable and target lower-level offending than those high-level offences prosecuted under the Act) and the codes of welfare (which are not directly enforceable).

SPCA has advocated for a review of all existing codes of welfare every three years. The companion Cat and Dog Codes have not been updated in more than a decade. And there are still some species without a code at all, including rabbits, companion birds and farmed fish. This makes it difficult for people to know how to best care for these animals.

"SPCA has taken the initiative to draft several codes of welfare for companion animals because they were not receiving the necessary priority," explains Ms McAninch. "We understand that the drafting process can be time-consuming, and we wanted to support the Government in advancing companion animal standards."

One significant example of missing regulations pertains to the permanent chaining of dogs, an area in which SPCA has consistently advocated for years. The absence of enforceable standards specific to chained dogs has posed challenges for Animal Welfare Inspectors in effectively enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. Without these, thousands of dogs are left permanently chained and there is little ability for SPCA to intervene.

“Our ability to ensure animals are getting the best possible outcomes in New Zealand hinges on the legal system that surrounds them,” adds Ms McAninch. “This report is another piece of evidence indicating that the animal welfare system needs more oversight. Our organisation agrees that one way to ensure this oversight of the animal welfare system would be the appointment of a Commissioner for Animals in New Zealand, in addition to the continuing work of the Ministry for Primary Industries, SPCA and existing Animal Welfare Committees.”

Over the course of several Parliaments, the Regulations Review Committee considered many complaints relating to secondary legislation made under the Animal Welfare Act – which looks at both regulations and codes of welfare. It concluded the volume of complaints received highlighted issues with the process for developing secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act.

SPCA calls upon all stakeholders to work together in this endeavor to safeguard the welfare of animals and create a more effective and evidence-based approach to animal welfare legislation.


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