Codes of Welfare

Find out about codes of welfare, their relationship to the Animal Welfare Act 1999, and how they help improve animal management and care.

Codes form part of the Animal Welfare Act

Owners or people in charge of animals must comply with the:

  • Animal Welfare Act 1999
  • minimum standards for animal care and management in codes of welfare.

The codes are separate from the Act because with so many different types of animals and situations, it is impractical to include them all in the Act – it would make for lengthy and unwieldy legislation.

Using the codes

More than one code of welfare might be relevant for a particular situation. For example, when transporting sheep, both the sheep and beef cattle code of welfare, and the transport within New Zealand code of welfare apply.

Codes of welfare also have recommended best practices. These recommendations set out standards of care and conduct, over and above the minimum required to meet the obligations in the Act. They are included to encourage higher standards of animal welfare.


If you are charged with an offence under the Act:

  • evidence of your failure to meet a relevant minimum standard in a code may be used to support the prosecution
  • your defence may include evidence that you equalled or exceeded the minimum standards in a relevant code.

The codes are flexible enough to be modified and improved as community expectations, good practice, scientific knowledge and technical advances allow. In the future, codes of welfare will be complemented by regulations to broaden enforcement powers.

Codes of welfare replace the 'Codes of recommendations and minimum standards', which were issued under the previous law. The only codes of recommendations and minimum standards that still apply are for deer velveting, and for ostriches and emus.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the codes, email

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