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New Animal Welfare Regulations

31 May 2021

New regulations on the subject of animal welfare came into force on 9 May 2021.[1]

The regulations aim to improve animal welfare in New Zealand by setting out minimum standards of conduct in relation to the care of animals, and requiring that various types of surgical or painful procedures on animals are carried out:

  • By, or under the supervision of, suitably qualified and experienced persons; and
  • In humane ways.


Farmers need to be aware of the new regulations, as they cover on-farm practices and transporting livestock.  While most of the regulations reflect existing farm practices, some set new requirements for the industry and are worth examining.

The regulations are broken down by animal type and by surgery type, but there are also some regulations that apply to all animals – such as the restrictions imposed around the use of electric prodders, goads, collars and tethers.

There are also recurring themes in the regulations, as the methods used to carry out various types of surgeries on animals in New Zealand have been put under the spotlight, such as dehorning, castrating, and tail docking.

Some of the regulations also bind multiple parties, including:

  • The owner of the animal;
  • The person in charge of the animal; and
  • The person undertaking the surgical or painful procedure.


One consequence of that approach is that an owner, or a person in charge of an animal, may also be liable under the regulations for the actions of a third party carrying out the procedure.

While that may seem like cause for alarm, owners and people in charge of animals can do their part by ensuring that the person carrying out the surgical or painful procedure is suitably qualified and experienced to carry out the procedure, such as a veterinarian.

Some of the regulations are infringement offences, with a set fine, while others are prosecutable offences which could result in a larger fine and a criminal conviction.  Some do not carry penalties at all, as their purpose is to provide clarity about the minimum standards expected of New Zealanders in relation to animal welfare.

If you are charged with a prosecutable offence under the regulations, we recommend you speak to a lawyer immediately as prosecution can lead to a criminal conviction.  You or your legal representative will be required to appear before a Judge in the District Court in the same way as all other criminal matters.

[1] Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018


Simon Middlemiss is an Associate in the Commercial Disputes and Employment Team. Contact Simon.


Samantha Barrett is a Solicitor in the Commercial Disputes and Employment Team. Contact Samantha.