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25 March 1999
Three hundred and twenty animal welfare complaints were investigated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Enforcement Unit in its first four months of operation, and this number is expected to grow, says Ross Burnell, a MAF Enforcement Unit senior adviser.
Animal welfare complaints traditionally decrease during the summer months,and from past experience the unit expects the monthly complaint figures to increase,especially during the winter and spring months.
However, due to the recent drought, the unit has been busier earlier. Mr Burnell said there has been problems of stock going without water or suffering from a loss of condition. Flystrike and facial eczema in sheep have also been prevalent.
The animal welfare component of the MAF Enforcement Unit came into operation on November 1 last year. Prior to the Enforcement Unit’s involvement,animal welfare complaints were handled on a part-time basis by MAF Quality Management livestock officers and veterinarians since the introduction of the Animals Protection Act1960.
The Enforcement Unit investigates illegal slaughter and sale of meat,illegal introduction of animals and animal and plant products into New Zealand, the growing black market in endangered species, as well as investigating complaints of cruelty and neglect of animals. The Enforcement Unit also investigates all breaches of legislation administered by MAF, including dairy and animal remedies legislation. The total Enforcement Unit consists of 18 investigating officers.
Most of the 320 complaints centred around production animal concerns. Of the 320 investigations, the highest percentages were 31% involving cattle, 21% horses, and25% sheep. A large number involved lifestyle block owners, which is an area of major concern, says Mr Burnell.
"There are always those people who shouldn’t have anything to do with animals, and others who are misguided or who are eternal optimists who expect stock to live on fresh air or unpalatable weed and stubble, and those who expect the grass to grow by tomorrow," said Mr Burnell.
The staff carrying out the enforcement team’s animal welfare role cover the entire country playing a surveillance and education role in addition to their primary enforcement responsibilities. Members are located in Auckland, the Waikato,Palmerston North, Christchurch and Timaru, but are on the road travelling the country for most of the year investigating complaints. An 0800 telephone number (0800 327027) has been established to ensure that all animal welfare complaints are dealt with in the most cost-effective manner.
The Enforcement Unit involvement in animal welfare evolved from a strategic review of the Ministry’s delivery of animal welfare services, in a lead up to MAF Quality Management being split into two State Owned Enterprises on November 1 last year.
"The animal welfare activity is more focused because officers are now dedicated to a specific role, which has ensured prompt and efficient investigation of complaints. Our enforcement officers also network closely with the livestock farming sector," Mr Burnell said.
The unit has the support of Federated Farmers and the RNZSPCA. It continues to work closely with SPCA inspectors in investigating animal welfare complaints,and works in conjunction with other enforcement agencies such as Customs, the Wildlife Enforcement Unit, the Police and international intelligence.
For further information contact:
Ross Burnell, 0800 327 027 or 021 894 980