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New Zealand - Animal Welfare and Cultural Issues

New Zealand has legislation in place which is designed to protect animals from unnecessary suffering and the country is considered to have good standard of animal welfare. As with most countries there are instances of cruelty to animals but those who offend can be prosecuted. The Animal Welfare Act came into effect in 1999 and it states that those who take care of animals ensure that they are kept in good health and all their needs are met. The act describes the ‘five freedoms’ which are considered to be the important factors in animal care. All animals should have the food and water that they need, the appropriate shelter, the opportunity to behave as they are meant to, appropriate medical care when needed and should be handled in a way that does not cause unnecessary discomfort or pain.

In addition to the ‘five freedoms’ there are individual welfare guidelines for specific animals. The Animal Welfare Act is overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and there are specific campaigns and policies which promote the correct treatment of animals and which will deal with complaints, carrying out investigations where necessary.

There is a great deal of regulation of the use of animals in research. The Animal Welfare Act is the main piece of legislation that controls this practice. All organisations which use animals in research have to follow a code of ethics and have an animal ethics committee which approves all projects which involve animals. The animal ethics committee needs to have a certain number of people with specific experience and qualifications. These include a member of an animal welfare organisation, a member of the New Zealand Veterinary Association and a lay person to represent the public. Each project which uses animals must be able to demonstrate the benefits of the programme.

New Zealand has a ‘Three Rs’ programme which is intended to keep the number of animals used in research to a minimum. Replacement looks at the possibility of using non-animal alternatives in the testing, such as computer models. Reduction is the practice of using only the minimum number of animals required for the testing. Refinement is the process of ensuring that pain and suffering are not allowed if they can be prevented. Each animal ethics committee must take the three Rs into account when they assess each project. Awards are issued each year to companies that successfully implement the three Rs.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is the main animal welfare charity in New Zealand. They are the equivalent of the RSPCA in the UK and work to encourage people to treat their animals humanely and to prevent instances of cruelty. In addition their work includes providing shelters for animals that have been abandoned or hurt. The shelters are staffed by qualified professionals and the charity works to find suitable homes for the animals. The charity also runs a number of campaigns which are designed to teach individuals about animal care and help to prevent inhumane treatment. Fundraising is another part of their work which is essential as it is largely through donations that they are able to continue with their work.

In addition the charity works to lobby the government and other organisations to ensure that the legislation in place is correct and effective and has many inspectors who deal with emergencies. Each area has a number of inspectors who are trained to deal with complaints of animal cruelty, investigate and begin prosecutions if it is deemed necessary. Complaints are usually investigated in order of priority. If a member of the public makes a complaint then they are notified of the results of the investigation when it has been completed.

The inspectors will deal with cases of cruelty to domestic animals, farm animals and handle strays and injured animals as well. An inspector will have a warrant which has been issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and will carry out their work in line with the Animal Welfare Act. The warrant gives them permission to enter buildings, aircraft or vehicles in order to inspect the situation if a case of animal cruelty is suspected.

Useful Resources

SPCA locations and contact details throughout New Zealand

Read more about this country

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