Animal welfare overview

It matters how animals are treated. We all have responsibilities toward animals in our care and those affected by our activities. MPI helps develop policy and enforce animal welfare in New Zealand.

Report an animal welfare issue

Animal welfare in New Zealand

Animals play an important role in many New Zealanders' lives – they offer food and fibre, income and companionship, education, research and entertainment. Animals work alongside us, entertain us, compete with us, and are even managed as pests. These relationships are accepted, as long as they are humane.

New Zealanders have high expectations that animals under human care are well looked after. New Zealand's reputation for high levels of animal welfare has helped secure access to markets internationally. Our economy depends on animals.

Animal welfare is described as what an animal experiences, how it performs, or whether it lives in keeping with its nature. Animal welfare is often a compromise between animals' needs and humans' needs and desires – it is society that determines what compromises to animal welfare are accepted as necessary and reasonable.

Animal welfare policy and law in New Zealand are established and implemented with the aim of:

    • supporting society's expectations for the welfare and humane treatment of animals
    • addressing animal welfare risks
    • promoting improved welfare outcomes.

Two independent ministerial advisory committees have an important role in helping set those policies and laws while representing society's views on animal welfare.

Animal welfare law

MPI works within the legislative framework created by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Existing laws go further than just preventing cruelty, they place a duty of care on people in charge of animals to meet their animal's needs. In May 2015 amendments to the Act were made that strengthen its enforceability, clarity, and transparency. The Act enables MPI to develop regulations that will better address low to mid-level offending. It also provides for new enforcement tools that will enable animal welfare inspectors to proactively prevent or mitigate animal welfare problems.

The new regulations were consulted on publicly in the first half of 2016.

Regulations and codes support the Act

The Act is supported by regulations and codes of welfare:

  • Regulations set requirements that must be met or set standards that must not be breached.
  • Codes of welfare set out minimum standards and best practice for animal welfare for many animals and animal activities. They play an important role in improving animal welfare in New Zealand.

Regulations update

The first regulations under the Animal Welfare Act were released in June and July 2016. They covered the treatment of bobby calves and some changes to the rules about exporting live animals. Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations came into force 1 October 2018. Other regulations under the Act are still in development and will be gazetted, or brought into force when they are ready.

The Animal Welfare Act also:

  • has rules around animals used in research, testing, and teaching
  • manages the risks to animals being exported.

Other laws

Other laws that help protect animal welfare include the:

  • Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997
  • Dog Control Act 1996
  • Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978
  • Veterinarians Act 2005
  • Wildlife Act 1953.

Everyone is responsible for animal welfare. As well as legislation and regulations, many groups, sectors, and industries have a role in helping people protect and enhance animal welfare.

Our strategy and activities

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Animal welfare strategy

MPI leads the management of animal welfare policy and practice in New Zealand. The way people care and manage animals contributes to New Zealand's reputation as a responsible agricultural producer. MPI has developed Animal Welfare Matters, New Zealand's animal welfare strategy, which highlights the importance of:

  • meeting animals' needs and avoiding unreasonable or unnecessary harm
  • adding value to our exports and contributing to our reputation for integrity
  • continuing to improve animal welfare.

Download Animal Welfare Matters [PDF, 259 KB]

International collaboration

MPI is part of the New Zealand-Australia OIE Collaborating Centre for Animal Welfare Science and Bioethical Analysis. The OIE is the World Organisation for Animal Health.

The Centre's role is to provide expert scientific, bioethical, and advisory support for the OIE's global animal welfare initiative which began in 2001.

Welfare Pulse

Welfare Pulse is MPI's animal welfare publication for anyone with a special interest in animal welfare developments in New Zealand and overseas.

Who to contact

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