NZ releases new rules over surgical procedures on animals

Only a veterinarian, or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, can castrate a horses. Pain relief must be provided.
Only a veterinarian, or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, can castrate a horse. Pain relief must be provided.

New rules for surgical procedures on animals came into effect in New Zealand this week, following a year-long delay because of Covid-19.

The new regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 cover a variety of procedures carried out on a range of animals by veterinarians and others – from specialist procedures to routine ones such as equine dentistry to lamb tail docking and goat disbudding.

Dr Chris Rodwell, a veterinarian and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) director of animal health and welfare, says the new regulations make it clear who can carry out certain procedures, when, and how they should be done.

“These rules are to ensure surgical procedures on animals are carried out by the right people with the right skills and care, to safeguard the animals’ wellbeing,” Rodwell says.

The equine updates include regulations on castration, dentistry, equine reproductive procedures including Caslicks, and freeze and hot branding.

The new regulations have been developed after wide public consultation and mostly allow “competent” people to continue doing routine procedures on animals. Other procedures can only be performed by a veterinarian, and some are banned, meaning no one can carry them out. For some procedures, the regulations require the use of pain relief authorised by a veterinarian for that particular procedure.

Where a person who is not a veterinarian is allowed to carry out a surgical procedure on an animal, they must be “competent”, meaning they have experience with, or training in, the correct use of the method for the procedure, and have the appropriate skill and equipment to carry it out.

There are new offences and penalties for some breaches of the regulations, which came into effect on May 9, 2021. Some may result in a criminal conviction and a fine of up to $5000 for an individual or $25,000 for a body corporate.

These penalties target minor to moderate offending. If an animal’s welfare is seriously compromised, higher penalties under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 apply.

» Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Amendment Regulations 2020 (PDF)

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