Have your say on New Zealand's updated Animal Welfare Act


The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill aims to improve the enforceability, clarity and transparency of the Animal Welfare Act 1999. World Animal Protection New Zealand’s Country Director, Bridget Vercoe, says the proposed new legislation includes some excellent additions which are listed below.

The inclusion of sentience language in the updated Animal Welfare Act will ensure New Zealand remains at the forefront of animal protection policy and legislation globally.

But further changes need to be made to the Act to improve the lives of the country’s animals and ensure New Zealand remains a leader in animal welfare. 

What the Act needs

The need to look after animals in an adverse event and the recognition of sentience, that animals can feel pain and distress, are highlighted in the New Zealand Animal Welfare Strategy, which was publicly released on 2 May 2013. 

Unfortunately there is nothing in the updated Act to ensure the welfare of animals in adverse events is protected. Neither does the Act recognise that animals are sentient.

As Bridget explains, other countries, such as Chile, Tanzania, Ukraine and Hungary, have clearly acknowledged sentience in their legislation.  It is time New Zealand followed suit. 

The scientific understanding of animal sentience is based on decades of research and evidence. Studies have found many animals to be capable of complex emotions which are often thought to be unique to people, such as grief, empathy and emotion. With the sentience of animals being scientifically proven, this has become an important foundation for the development of animal protection policy around the world. 

The inclusion of sentience language in the updated Animal Welfare Act will ensure New Zealand remains at the forefront of animal protection policy and legislation globally. 

More than 60 countries, including New Zealand, have given their in-principle support for the Universal  Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW), which once adopted by the United Nations will recognise sentience and that animal welfare is an issue of global importance.  

The updated Act also does not address the welfare of exotic and wild animals kept in circuses and zoos. 

Whilst there is the introduction of new rules for live animal exports, it does not prohibit the cruel long distance transport of animals for slaughter. 

We have until Friday, 4 October 2013 to tell the New Zealand Government that animals matter and that we have a responsibility to improve the lives of all animals, whether it is a pet rabbit, a wild rabbit considered by many as a pest or a research subject.   

Take action  today and stop cruelty by improving New Zealand’s animal welfare laws.

Critical Additions we need in the Act

•    the recognition of sentience (that animals can feel pain and distress) 

•    the need to look after animals in adverse events. 

•    a ban on the export of live animals for slaughter 

•    tougher restriction on the importation of exotic animals by public zoos and a ban on the keeping of exotic animals in circuses and privately owned zoos. 

Excellent Additions we like in the Act

•    enabling acts which go beyond acceptable hunting, fishing or controlling pest control practices to be prosecuted as a willful or reckless ill-treatment offence, and   

•    the introduction of regulations which will complement the existing ‘codes of welfare’ and enable a tiered enforcement scheme of offences, penalties and infringements.