Animal Welfare Regulation

What are the Standards and Guidelines, and what do they mean for me?

Animal welfare inspectors at saleyard
National Standards and Guidelines, such as those for saleyards, will soon be regulated in Western Australia

The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines, or Standards and Guidelines, are being developed by State and Territory jurisdictions with the aim of having consistent and clear welfare regulation across Australia. Coordinated by Animal Health Australia, the Standards and Guidelines are based on the revision of the current Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals.

Australian producers have always been aware of their responsibilities for livestock welfare. However, increasing public awareness and expectations are placing significant pressure on our livestock industries to improve animal welfare. The development of welfare Standards and Guidelines underpins access to overseas markets and reinforces Australia’s international leadership in livestock welfare.

Until now, limitations in Western Australia’s Animal Welfare Act 2002 (the Act) have prevented the Standards and Guidelines from being implemented in this State. However, the recent amendments to the Act, which received Royal assent on 28 November, will allow the Standards and Guidelines to be regulated.

The national Standards set mandatory requirements for the humane treatment of animals. They use the word ‘must’ and provide the basis for developing and implementing consistent legislation and enforcement across Australia.

The Guidelines advise on recommended practices but are not mandatory. Guidelines use the word ‘should’ and are designed to complement the Standards. Non-compliance with one or more Guidelines will not be considered an offence under law.

The development of Standards and Guidelines includes a process of national consultation with stakeholders, which provides an opportunity for all members of the public and industry to comment on the draft Standards and Guidelines before they are finalised.

The current endorsed Standards and Guidelines are:

Land Transport (2012)

Sheep (2016)

Cattle (2016)

Animals in Saleyards and Depots (2018)

All states and territories except WA have implemented the Land Transport Standards. The Sheep and Cattle Standards have been implemented in South Australia and New South Wales, and all jurisdictions are considering the implementation of the Standards and Guidelines on Saleyards and Depots.