Animal welfare regulations

Changes to the Animal Welfare Act in May 2015 gave MPI the ability to make regulations under the Animal Welfare Act. This means that MPI can better enforce the Act by setting out clear rules to protect animal welfare. Some regulations were released in July 2016 after consultation. More will be released as they are developed.

Consultation on regulations

In April and May 2016, MPI sought feedback on 91 proposed animal welfare regulations designed to improve the already strong requirements we have around animal welfare in New Zealand.

Regulations consulted on were about:

  • live animal exports
  • care of, and conduct towards animals
  • surgical and painful procedures.

Submissions mostly supportive

MPI received over 1,400 submissions from individuals, industry groups and advocacy groups. A wide range of views on animal welfare and the regulatory proposals were expressed in these submissions.

In developing the regulations, current science, good practice, and the views of all submitters are taken into consideration.

Most proposals were strongly supported by submitters.

Next steps for the regulations

In 2016, regulations relating to the welfare of young calves and the export of live animals were introduced.

Regulations developed in 2017

The Minister for Primary Industries confirmed that 46 new animal welfare regulations would be developed in 2017.

These regulations are a priority because they will have immediate animal welfare benefits.  The regulations relate to:

  • stock transport
  • farm husbandry
  • companion and working animals
  • pigs and layer hens
  • crustaceans
  • rodeos
  • the way animals are accounted for in research, testing and teaching. 

We expect most of the new regulations will come into force in October 2018.

Dog tail docking regulation

Proposed rules around docking dogs' tails are of high interest to some dog breeders and owners. Because of this interest, MPI commissioned an independent review of the science and arguments supporting or opposing the practice of tail docking. The independent reviewer provided a report to MPI which concluded that dog tail docking:

  • is a significant surgical procedure with the potential to cause considerable pain and distress
  • is not justified by any benefit to the dog.

Affected parties were given a chance to comment on the report. Cabinet has since approved a policy to restrict tail docking of dogs' tails. Final approval to create regulations will be sought later this year and we'll let affected parties know about any decisions.

Canine Tail Docking - Independent Report [PDF, 170 KB]

Regulations that won't be progressed

Some of the proposed regulations that were consulted on will not be progressed. 

Find out more [PDF, 201 KB]

Remaining regulations

In 2018, MPI will work on the remaining regulations which relate to carrying out surgical and painful procedures on animals. These regulations will clarify the rules around who may do surgical and painful procedures on animals and under what circumstances. 

Find out more [PDF, 402 KB]

Regulations covering the welfare of calves

After the consultation, a number of regulations relating to the welfare of calves – particularly young calves – were developed quickly to ensure they were in place for most of the 2016 spring calving season.

Seven new regulations have been developed to strengthen the rules around young calf welfare with a range of fines and infringements. For information on these regulations please see the Caring for bobby calves section of our website

Regulations for the export of live animals

New regulations covering the export of live animals were confirmed on 28 July 2016. These regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 will replace the current rules under the Customs Export Prohibition (Livestock for Slaughter) Order (CEPO) 2013. This means that the export of cattle, sheep, deer and goats (livestock) for slaughter cannot occur unless approved by the Director-General of MPI. No applications for the export of livestock for slaughter have been made or approved since 2007. The new regulations came into force on 21 December 2016.

Reporting requirements brought forward

The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 that enable the Director-General of MPI to require exporters to provide reports on the welfare of exported animals during their journey and for up to 30 days post-arrival came into force on 25 August 2016.

These provisions would have come into force in May 2020 but a Commencement Order allows for their earlier introduction.

More regulations in development

MPI will release more animal welfare regulations as they are developed.

Who to contact

If you have questions about animal welfare, email

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