New animal welfare rules to be introduced

Docked tails on dogs will become a thing of the past.

There are a number of new regulations being developed in response to the feedback received by the Ministry of Primary Industries when consulted on animal welfare regulations in April and May 2016. They have recently released their report on the consultation and announced that many of the new regulations will come into force in October with others introduced at a later date. The ones you will no doubt be interested in are outlined here.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association celebrated the news that tail docking will be banned unless for veterinary reasons. This new regulation will finally put an end to the practice of allowing lay people to dock puppies’ tails without pain management, and tail removal will only ever be performed by a vet to benefit a dog’s welfare.

While there were some submissions regarding horses, the topics that received the most submissions were about docking of dogs’ tails, followed by pain relief, stock transport, colony cages for layer hens and pigs.

A number of proposals have been prioritised for development in 2017 as they will deliver the most immediate animal welfare benefits. These are :

  • stock transport
  • farm husbandry
  • companion and working animals
  • pigs and layer hens
  • crustaceans
  • rodeos


A second group will be processed in 2018 and includes significant surgical procedures. Some of these are equestrian-related, including embryo transfers, the use of power tools in dental work, rectal examinations and caslick’s procedures. The decisions to be made relate to who can carry out the procedure and the administration of pain relief.

Feedback included a lot of support for the regulations as worded, about striking a horse around the head: 75% of the 75 submissions supported the regulations as written, while 24% wanted stronger wording, including prohibiting striking altogether. The current minimum standard in the Horses and Donkeys Code of Welfare 2016 states “horses must not be struck around the head or genitals with a whip, lead or any other object.”

The use of halters, head ropes, saddles and other equipment must not cause cuts, abrasions or swelling – that is the current minimum standard in the code. Over 30 complaints per year are investigated. Halters being left on for extended periods are one of the main issues. Distress has to be severe before prosecutions are taken under the Act. MPI was proposing making this an infringement offence; 71 submissions were received, with only 1% wanting this made weaker. Many wanted to make it stronger.

The proposal that tethered horses and donkeys must have constant access to water, food and shelter was well supported, with 45% wanting tethering prohibited altogether. About 30 complaints per year are investigated.

The proposal that fireworks must not be used at rodeos received 720 submissions, although the majority did not comment on the use of fireworks, but wanted rodeos to be prohibited. Of those that did comment on the fireworks aspect, the majority supported the regulation that they must not be used.

Of the 66 submissions received about prohibiting blistering, firing or nicking horses, 95% supported the banning of this, with the others wanting a higher penalty.

Public meetings were held as part of the consultation, and during these a common theme emerged: more officers are needed to enforce the Animal Welfare Act and its regulations. MPI now reports that $10 million over four years is available to support the Act, and six more animal welfare inspectors have been recruited, bringing the total to 17; there are also approximately 90 RNZSPCA inspectors around the country.

Lack of funding to the RNZSPCA was criticised, and MPI’s response was that funding is provided to the SPCA on an annually negotiated basis for agreed services, primarily training and enforcement.

There were also questions on whether MPI would ban rolkkur (hyperflexion of the neck). MPI said that this is already covered under the Horses and Donkeys code of welfare under the section on training techniques. We looked and couldn’t find any specific reference to it, however, but the minimum standards should cover it. These are:

  • Horses must be handled and trained at all times in such a way as to minimise the risk of pain, injury or distress.
  • Horses must not be worked at such an intensity that is likely to cause exhaustion, heat stress, injury or distress.

There were also numerous questions about rodeos, with many people wanting them banned altogether. MPI’s response is that the code of welfare issued for rodeos in 2014 puts in place new measures to minimise risks to animals. The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee considered that there was not a high risk of injury, and did not recommend a blanket ban on rodeos. Regional authorities retain the power to ban them in their areas.

The equestrian-related organisations who made submissions were: NZ Thoroughbred Racing, NZ Rodeo Cowboys Association, Anti-Rodeo Action NZ, and NZ Horse Network.

If you want to see the various codes of practice containing the minimum standards, click on this link.