CASE NOTES


DEVELOPMENTS IN ANIMAL WELFARE

Amanda Paul, Veterinary Officer, Animal Welfare, NSW DPI

INTRODUCTION

Posted Flock & Herd April 2013

This paper aims to update you on developments in the animal welfare section of DPI. There have been some legislative changes and work in other areas that may affect you. These include changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTA) to allow seizure of animals, and work towards clarification of agency responses to livestock transport accidents.

A number of issues have arisen in the last 12 months that have raised questions around the participation of LHPA vets in animal welfare. The first is the Crown Solicitor's advice regarding functions of LHPAs. This advice effectively restricts DVs to functions imposed in legislation, either under the Rural Lands Protection Act or other legislation.

The second is the transition to Local Land Services (LLS). Given the current uncertainty around the implementation of LLS, there are a number of issues requiring determination on how animal welfare functions, previously provided by the Departmental Livestock Officers (LOs) and LHPAs, will be delivered in the future.

POCTA SEIZE AND SELL

In September 2012 amendments were made to POCTA to allow stock to be seized and sold in the event of a failure to provide food and water (Section 8) case where the owner does not comply with directions to improve the welfare of the stock. The amendments are found in the new Part 2B in the Act.

The aim of these amendments is to allow earlier intervention in the small number of cases where the owner does not cooperate with directions provided under section 24N of the Act to improve animal welfare outcomes for animals in this situation.

The amendments specify that a 'stock welfare panel' should be convened to provide advice to the Director-General (D-G) with respect to management of the stock. The membership of the stock welfare panel must include an inspector, a Departmental officer with expertise in animal welfare or livestock management, and at least one representative from an LHPA with expertise in animal welfare or livestock management. This essentially picks up on the previous situation where a team was formed from DPI, LHPA and RSPCA. Other members may be co-opted to the panel as specified in the Regulation. If the stock continue to deteriorate, on the advice of the Panel, the D-G may issue an official warning that he intends to authorize the seizure and disposal of the animals if action is not taken in relation to the animals' welfare. If the owner does not comply with the official warning, the D-G can ultimately authorize the enforcement agency to seize the stock and dispose of them with the net proceeds being returned to the owner.

There will be some amendments to the regulation made to allow implementation of these changes, including referencing a new publication, Welfare scoring nutritionally deprived cattle and sheep. This publication is based on the welfare descriptor Primefacts (Numbers 619 and 1003) and can be used both as a guide in welfare cases and as an extension tool for farmers. It currently includes beef cattle, dairy-type cattle and sheep and we are now working to include horses and goats. In addition to the welfare descriptors, it includes welfare checklists, management and transport options. It is available on our website
( www.dpi.nsw.gov.au ).

We have been working with major stakeholders to develop a policy and procedure to underpin these amendments.

The restructuring into LLS will need to factor in the technical support previously provided by Departmental LOs for management of Section 8 cases. The advice of LOs regarding animal scoring and nutrition was an essential component in managing these cases.

LIVESTOCK TRANSPORT ACCIDENTS

During 2012, a working group with representatives from DPI, LHPA, NSW Police and RSPCA has been meeting to develop agreed procedures for management of livestock transport accidents. This proved to be more difficult than anticipated once we began looking at the available powers of agency staff to destroy animals under the various pieces of legislation.

It is clear that the Police are the primary response agency for any traffic incident. However they do not want to be in charge of destroying animals while they are dealing with the bigger picture. There is also a protocol in terms of the order in which issues are dealt with on site. Human health and safety issues must take precedence over animal welfare. This protocol may produce delays which have the potential to distress both the owners of the animals and any by-standers.

Under POCTA, vets and inspectors from the enforcement agencies have the power to destroy animals that are 'so severely injured, so diseased or in such a physical condition that it is cruel to keep them alive'. They can also engage other competent persons to aid in the destruction of animals. We are looking at amending the Act to give LHPA rangers the same power under the Act which would then give them indemnity.

We are aware that attendance of LHPA vets at transport accidents is not one of the functions listed in sections 42 and 43 of the RLPB Act and this is another issue that may need to be addressed in the transition to LLS, possibly with an MOU.

STANDARDS AND GUIDELINES FOR LIVESTOCK

At the time of writing this paper, the standards for Land Transport of Livestock that I foreshadowed would be implemented in the first half of 2012, have still not been adopted into Regulation (mainly for administrative reasons). We have a first draft from Parliamentary Counsel and I hope that the projected implementation date of February 2013 will be met. To underpin the standards, Meat and Livestock Australia has revised their 'Fit to Load' guide which is available on their website. The transport standards have their own website at www.livestockwelfarestandards.net.au.

Drafting of sheep and cattle standards and guidelines is to be completed by mid-2013. The standards will then need to be implemented into legislation - in NSW, as animal welfare standards under the POCTA Regulation.

The redrafting and conversion of the Model Codes for goats and poultry to standards and guidelines are scheduled to begin this year.

SALEYARDS

There still seem to be issues around responsibilities for sick/ injured animals in saleyards. The legislative responsibilities of saleyard managers are clear. Animals become their responsibility once unloaded into a saleyard from transports.

Section 26B of POCTA gives saleyard managers (like vets) the power to destroy an animal that, in their opinion, is 'so severely injured, so diseased or in such a physical condition that it is cruel to keep it alive'. Under this section, the manager may destroy the animal or may delegate the task of destruction to someone else, provided that the animal dies quickly and without unnecessary pain.

Under section 32 of the Act, a saleyard owner or lessee may recoup reasonable costs imposed by complying with the Act or regulations. Therefore, there should be no impediment to calling on a private vet to euthanase animals if the manager does not have the necessary skills or equipment.

It was encouraging to read that Andy Madigan, CEO of the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association, made the point at their AGM in October 2012, that animal welfare was everyone's responsibility, and that the chain of responsibility begins on the farm. Hopefully his message got through to those agents who will not take responsibility for loading unfit animals.

 


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