Animal Welfare

Veterinarians have a special duty to protect animal welfare and alleviate animal suffering.
  1. Veterinarians must be familiar with and comply with the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and the relevant Codes of Welfare. In the course of their work, veterinarians must consider and take all reasonable steps to protect the needs of animals in relation to the five basic requirements of:
    1. Proper and sufficient food and water;
    2. Adequate shelter;
    3. The opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour;
    4. Appropriate physical handling; and
    5. Protection from, and rapid diagnosis of, injury and disease.
    This obligation is qualified however, as the needs in each individual case are assessed according to what is appropriate to the species, environment and circumstances of the affected animal(s).

  2. In the course of their work veterinarians must not ignore circumstances where they have reasonable grounds to suspect non compliance with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and Codes of Welfare. Veterinarians must be satisfied that their co-workers and their clients are informed of and comply with the relevant provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and Codes of Welfare that relate to work they are undertaking.

  3. Veterinarians must act immediately to remedy situations where they have cause to suspect unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress in an animal(s), or possible breaches of animal welfare legislation.

  4. When euthanasia is necessary it must be carried out humanely. In situations where an animal's owner is not known or cannot be contacted, veterinarians must exercise their duty under section 138 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to euthanise severely sick or injured animals responsibly.

  5. Veterinarians must ensure, that in the course of their work, only persons appropriately approved under sections 15-20 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 perform significant, restricted or controlled surgical procedures. Veterinarians must be satisfied that any person under their authority who performs any type of surgical procedure on an animal is appropriately trained and supervised, and that the animal does not suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

  6. Veterinarians must not carry out treatments or procedures on animals unless they meet the following criteria. Treatments or procedures must:
    1. Only be performed:
      1. When the procedure is reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances in order to prevent, diagnose or treat an illness or injury; or
      2. In accordance with accepted farming practices (e.g. develvetting deer); or
      3. In accordance with generally accepted principles of responsible pet ownership (e.g. de-sexing cats and dogs).
    2. Only be performed with appropriate pain management.
    3. Not be performed primarily for the convenience of the owner.
    4. Meet accepted professional standards.


  7. Where a client's animals are found to carry inherited defects that compromise their welfare or that of their prospective progeny, veterinarians must give the client sound genetic counselling and management advice which is in the best interests of the animal and its progeny.

Animal Welfare Resources
  1. Animal Welfare Act, 1999
  2. Codes of Welfare
  3. OIE Guidelines for Killing of Animals for Disease Control Purposes