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Landmark Animal Welfare Legislation Welcomed by Veterinarians

06 May 2015

NEW ZEALAND - The New Zealand veterinary profession welcomes the landmark passage of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill which brings greater clarity, transparency and enforceability of the country’s animal welfare laws, further strengthening New Zealand’s excellent reputation for animal welfare.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA), which played a key role in helping to shape the Bill, says some of the key changes include the legal recognition of animal sentience, which is sensation or feeling in animals, for the first time in New Zealand law.

NZVA President Dr Steve Merchant says: “Veterinarians are at the vanguard of animal welfare advocacy and public support is behind us in the call for greater clarity on issues concerning animal welfare and increased sanctions for animal cruelty.

Expectations on animal welfare have been rapidly changing, and practices that were once commonplace for pets and farm stock are no longer acceptable or tolerated. The Bill brings legislation in line with our nation’s changing attitude on the status of animals in society.”

He says that the inclusion of sentience strongly reinforces that people are obliged to meet their animals’ physical, health and behavioural needs, and places New Zealand at the “forefront of progressive animal welfare legislation.”

Dr Merchant says that the Bill also includes a clearer definition of significant surgical procedures for animals and the policy has been retained that these procedures only be performed by veterinarians or veterinary students under veterinary oversight. “Veterinarians will play a key role in developing regulations around these procedures which will be enforceable by law.”

The ability to effectively enforce animal Codes of Welfare has been a long-standing issue and the veterinary profession welcomes changes to enhance the protection of animals. “The Codes will now provide a clearer benchmark for compliance, rather than just being guidelines.”

Dr Merchant says mandatory standards for the export of live animals are also strongly supported and was a central issue in the NZVA’s submission on the Bill. Standards will now include consideration of the conditions and treatment of animals at their destination.

“There will be more certainty for exporters and overseas markets about animal welfare requirements. Veterinarians will also have a more substantial role in the assessment and monitoring of the export process, accompanying exported animals to ensure their welfare is being met.”

The veterinary profession will continue to work closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries, and other key organisations, to develop regulations to strengthen animal welfare legislation.

“Regulations will need to very precise and clearly defined to ensure high compliance with animal welfare standards as defined by the Animal Welfare Act. This will ultimately benefit animals, as well as New Zealand’s economy and international reputation.”

The Bill’s passage follows the first major review in 15 years of New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act 1999, which defines animal welfare standards.

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