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New Zealand Animal Welfare Act 1999

New Zealand Animal Welfare Act 1999

I set out some key parts only of the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act 1999 here as they relate to the welfare of domestic cats in general. In other words they concern people who keep domestic cats.

This is a comprehensive piece of legislation as I would expect from New Zealand. There are 202 sections and seven schedules. The act covers all matters in relation to animal welfare and protection including: Surgical procedures, Animal fighting ventures, Traps and devices, Part 3 – Animal exports, Part 4 – Advisory committees, Part 5 – Codes of welfare, Part 6 – Use of animals in research, testing, and teaching, Part 7 – Provisions relating to administration, Part 9 – Miscellaneous provisions, which includes such sections as exceptions in relation to hunting or killing.

It is an Act—

(a) to reform the law relating to the welfare of animals and the prevention of their ill-treatment; and, in particular,—

(i) to require owners of animals, and persons in charge of animals, to attend properly to the welfare of those animals:

(ii) to specify conduct that is or is not permissible in relation to any animal or class of animals:

(iii) to provide a process for approving the use of animals in research, testing, and teaching:

(iv) to establish a National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and a National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee:

(v) to provide for the development and issue of codes of welfare and the approval of codes of ethical conduct:

(b) to repeal the Animals Protection Act 1960

Part 1 Care of animals

9. Purpose

(1) The purpose of this Part is to ensure that owners of animals and persons in charge of animals attend properly to the welfare of those animals.

(2) This Part accordingly—

(a) requires owners of animals, and persons in charge of animals, to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the physical, health, and behavioural needs of the animals are met in accordance with both—

(i) good practice; and

(ii) scientific knowledge; and

(b) requires owners of ill or injured animals, and persons in charge of such animals, to ensure that the animals receive, where practicable, treatment that alleviates any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress from which the animals are suffering; and

(c) imposes restrictions on the carrying out of surgical procedures on animals; and

(d) provides for the classification of the types of surgical procedures that may be performed on animals; and

(e) specifies the persons or classes of persons who may perform each class of such surgical procedures; and

(f) specifies certain minimum conditions that must be observed in relation to the transportation of animals.


Definition of physical, health, and behavioural needs

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, the term physical, health, and behavioural needs, in relation to an animal, includes—

(a) proper and sufficient food and water:

(b) adequate shelter:

(c) opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour:

(d) physical handling in a manner which minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress:

(e) protection from, and rapid diagnosis of, any significant injury or disease,—

being a need which, in each case, is appropriate to the species, environment, and circumstances of the animal.


10. Obligation in relation to physical, health, and behavioural needs of animals.

The owner of an animal, and every person in charge of an animal, must ensure that the physical, health, and behavioural needs of the animal are met in a manner that is in accordance with both—

(a) good practice; and

(b) scientific knowledge.

11. Obligation to alleviate pain or distress of ill or injured animals

(1) The owner of an animal that is ill or injured, and every person in charge of such an animal, must, where practicable, ensure that the animal receives treatment that alleviates any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress being suffered by the animal.

(2) This section does not—

(a) limit section 10; or

(b) require a person to keep an animal alive when it is in such a condition that it is suffering unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

12. Animal welfare offences

A person commits an offence who, being the owner of, or a person in charge of, an animal,—

(a) fails to comply, in relation to the animal, with section 10; or

(b) fails, in the case of an animal that is ill or injured, to comply, in relation to the animal, with section 11; or

(c) kills the animal in such a manner that the animal suffers unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

13. Strict liability

(1) In a prosecution for an offence against section 12, it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that the defendant intended to commit an offence.

(1A) In a prosecution for an offence against section 12 committed after the commencement of this subsection, evidence that a relevant code of welfare was in existence at the time of the alleged offence and that a relevant minimum standard established by that code was not complied with is rebuttable evidence that the person charged with the offence failed to comply with, or contravened, the provision of this Act to which the offence relates.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), it is a defence in any prosecution for an offence against section 12 if the defendant proves—

(a) that, in relation to the animal to which the prosecution relates, the defendant took,—

(i) in the case of an offence against section 12(a), all reasonable steps to comply with section 10; or

(ii) in the case of an offence against section 12(b), all reasonable steps to comply with section 11; or

(iii) in the case of an offence against section 12(c), all reasonable steps not to commit a breach of section 12(c); or

(b) that the act or omission constituting the offence took place in circumstances of stress or emergency, and was necessary for the preservation, protection, or maintenance of human life; or

(c) that there was in existence at the time of the alleged offence a relevant code of welfare and that the minimum standards established by the code of welfare were in all respects equalled or exceeded.

(3) Except with the leave of the court, subsection (2) does not apply unless, within 7 days after the service of the summons, or within such further time as the court may allow, the defendant has delivered to the prosecutor a written notice—

(a) stating that the defendant intends to rely on subsection (2); and

(b) specifying—

(i) where the defendant intends to rely on subsection (2)(a), the reasonable steps that the defendant will claim to have taken; or

(ii) where the defendant intends to rely on subsection (2)(b), the circumstances of stress or emergency, and the reasons why the act or omission was necessary for the preservation, protection, or maintenance of human life; or

(iii) where the defendant intends to rely on subsection (2)(c), the relevant code of welfare that was in existence at the time of the alleged offence, and the facts that show that the minimum standards established by that code of welfare were in all respects equalled or exceeded.

14. Further animal welfare offences

(1) A person commits an offence who, being the owner of, or a person in charge of, an animal, without reasonable excuse,—

(a) keeps the animal alive when it is in such a condition that it is suffering unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress; or

(b) sells, attempts to sell, or offers for sale, otherwise than for the express purpose of being killed, the animal when it is suffering unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

(2) A person commits an offence who, being the owner of, or person in charge of, an animal, without reasonable excuse, deserts the animal in circumstances in which no provision is made to meet its phy sical, health, and behavioural needs.

25. Penalties

A person who commits an offence against section 12 or section 14(1) or section 14(2) or section 21(1) or section 21(2) or section 22(2) or section 23(1) or section 23(2) is liable on summary conviction,—

(a) in the case of an individual, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to both; or

(b) in the case of a body corporate to a fine not exceeding $250,000.

28. Wilful ill-treatment of animals

(1) A person commits an offence if that person wilfully ill-treats an animal with the result that—

(a) the animal is permanently disabled; or

(b) the animal dies; or

(c) the pain or distress caused to the animal is so great that it is necessary to destroy the animal in order to end its suffering; or

(d) the animal is seriously injured or impaired.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(d), an animal is seriously injured or impaired if the injury or impairment—

(a) involves—

(i) prolonged pain and suffering; or

(ii) a substantial risk of death; or

(iii) loss of a body part; or

(iv) permanent or prolonged loss of a bodily function; and

(b) requires treatment by or under the supervision of a veterinarian.

(3) A person who commits an offence against this section is liable on conviction on indictment,—

(a) in the case of an individual, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to both:

(b) in the case of a body corporate, to a fine not exceeding $500,000.

28A. Reckless ill-treatment of animals

(1) A person commits an offence if that person recklessly ill-treats an animal with the result that—

(a) the animal is permanently disabled; or

(b) the animal dies; or

(c) the pain or distress caused to the animal is so great that it is necessary to destroy the animal in order to end its suffering; or

(d) the animal is seriously injured or impaired.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(d), an animal is seriously injured or impaired if the injury or impairment—

(a) involves—

(i) prolonged pain and suffering; or

(ii) a substantial risk of death; or

(iii) loss of a body part; or

(iv) permanent or prolonged loss of a bodily function; and

(b) requires treatment by or under the supervision of a veterinarian.

(3) A person who commits an offence against this section is liable on conviction on indictment,—

(a) in the case of an individual, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to a fine not exceeding $75,000 or to both:

(b) in the case of a body corporate, to a fine not exceeding $350,000.

See the full text of the Act here: Animal Welfare Act 1999

From New Zealand Animal Welfare Act 1999 to Cats and Laws


Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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