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«General principles for transport Transport is inherently stressful for livestock – animals are subject to close confinement in truck crates over ...»

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New Zealand Veterinary Association Guidelines – 20 March 2013




It is a legal requirement under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 that animals must be fit for transport i.e. free from injuries,

disease, abnormal behaviour or physical abnormalities. However, the Animal Welfare (Transport within New Zealand) Code of Welfare 2011 does allow for the transport of animals, in some instances, that are sick, injured or deformed. A veterinary declaration must be completed and must accompany the animal(s) when transported.

(Veterinary Declaration Certificate pads can be ordered from the New Zealand Veterinary Association).

General principles for transport Transport is inherently stressful for livestock – animals are subject to close confinement in truck crates over variable road conditions and weather. If the health of any animal is already compromised prior to being selected for transport the stress of transportation may exacerbate the condition, possibly resulting in death.

Animals should arrive at their destination in a state similar to that when loaded.

The duration of the journey should be as short as possible.

An animal that is sick, injured or deformed may be transported only if it is certified by a veterinarian following a clinical examination.

An animal that is not fit for transport should either be:

treated (by a veterinarian);

o destroyed humanely;

o killed for home consumption; or o killed on farm by an approved pet food operator.

o Legal requirements Under Section 23 of the Animal Welfare Act it is an offence to transport an animal whose condition or health renders it unfit for such transport.

The code of welfare for the transport for animals (the code) provides greater detail and information on the matters which should be taken into account when selecting animals for transport.

The NZVA guidelines provide further information to veterinarians especially in regard to assessing animals that may not comply with the minimum standards.

Minimum Standard 6 of the code states the following regarding selecting and accepting animals for transport:

Page 1 of 8 12a - Fitness of Livestock for Transport including Veterinary Certificate – Mar13 Minimum Standard No. 6 – Selecting and Accepting Animals for Transport (a) Proper care must be taken when deciding whether it is appropriate to transport young, old, pregnant or otherwise physiologically or behaviourally compromised animals.

(b) Animals must not be transportedif they are likely to give birth during the journey or be affected by metabolic complications of late pregnancy as a result of the journey.

(c) Animals must not be transported unless they are fit enough to withstand the entire journey without suffering unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

(d) Animals to be transported must be able to stand and to bear weight evenly on all limbs.

(e) Animals with horns or antlers of a length that may cause injury or be damaged must not be transported, except where special provision is made for such animals to be transported so that they do not cause injury and are not injured themselves.

(f) Animals must not be transported with bleeding antler or horn stumps, or within seven days of being disbudded, dehorned, castrated, tail docked or having velvet antler removed, except yearling deer where approved rings have been used.

(g) Animals must not be transported if they display any injuries, signs of disease, abnormal behaviour or physical abnormalities that could compromise their welfare during the journey, unless a veterinary declaration of fitness for transport has been completed.

Lame animals Animals must be able to stand and to bear weight evenly on all limbs (refer to Appendix 1).

Certification of such animals requires a thorough examination of the animal.

The animals have to be evaluated both at rest (standing) and moving (walking).

The veterinarian must be satisfied that the animals will be able to walk up and down the loading ramp at the start and the end of the journey and are unlikely to be compromised during transport.

There may be cases where an animal has an abnormal gait or imperfect mobility not involving pain and/or distress.

For example, an animal with a healed amputated claw or a deformity may be eligible for transport providing it can bear weight and walk without pain.

An animal with an amputated limb or foot must not be transported; one with a healed fracture may be suitable provided it satisfies the above criteria.

Animals, especially cattle, with fractured legs, are in some instances not treated but left in a paddock to heal “naturally”. This is unacceptable and is contrary to the Animal Welfare Act because the person in charge has not provided appropriate treatment for the animal to manage pain and distress. If you are asked to certify this type of case, taking the history may determine how the animal was managed at the time of the injury. It is not appropriate to provide a veterinary certificate if the animal was not treated.

Animals being transported for veterinary treatment e.g. for a fractured leg must be provided with adequate pain relief and/or immobilisation as required.

Animals with neurological symptoms (cranial, spinal, or regional) must not be transported if their mobility and stability when standing and moving is sufficiently limited or compromised e.g. knuckling of legs, ataxia, staggers, paresis.

These animals have an increased risk of falling and incurring further injury or trauma.

Animals unable to be certified for transport If the animal is not able to be certified fit for transport, the owner/person in charge must be given written options of

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Transport to slaughter – general principles (see Appendix I for guidance on specific conditions which could preclude transport to slaughter) It is the responsibility of the person in charge of any animal that is destined for slaughter and that has an injury, deformity or abnormality that could affect its suitability for transport, to call a veterinarian prior to transport to assess that suitability. If the animal is assessed as suitable, a completed veterinary certificate must accompany that animal when transported to slaughter. This is a requirement of the Animal Products Act 1999. Without such a veterinary declaration, these animals may not be eligible for slaughter for human consumption. Certification also satisfies the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act to ensure that the welfare of animals being transported is protected.

When requested to provide a certificate, veterinarians are being asked to make a statement only about the suitability of an animal for transport. They are not being asked to provide an opinion on suitability for human consumption (if the animal is being transported to slaughter) – this decision will be made at the slaughter premises. However, some awareness of the acceptability of an animal for slaughter for human consumption will enable a more holistic approach to be taken for each individual case, so that the expectations of the owner/person in charge, the veterinarian and slaughter plant can best be satisfied, and animal welfare is not further compromised by unnecessary transport.

Any animal transported to slaughter for pet food requires the same degree of scrutiny and is subject to the same animal welfare standards as animals destined for slaughter for human consumption.

A veterinarian who is unsure of the suitability or otherwise of the fitness of an animal to be transported and slaughtered is strongly advised to contact a MPI Verification Services (MPIVS) veterinarian at the intended slaughter premises destination for guidance. The details and phone numbers of MPI offices at slaughter premises are kept on the NZVA website see http://www.nzva.org.nz/vets-vet-businesses/clinical-resources.

Certification The Veterinary Council’s Code of Professional Conduct defines certification as the action of providing a written assurance or notification to any person about any animal or animal product (in this context 'written' includes using electronic means),

and states that:

Veterinarians must maintain the integrity of certification.

Further explanatory notes on certification are available on the Veterinary Council website – www.vetcouncil.org.nz

In completing the certificate for fitness for transport, the following should be taken into consideration:

Once veterinarians have agreed to certify an animal as fit for transport, they need to ensure that certification is appropriate and within Veterinary Council guidelines.

The identification of an animal/s must be accurately recorded.

Veterinarians must complete a separate certificate for each injured or deformed animal, or for each group of animals with the same or similar condition. However, when asked to certify a group of animals, veterinarians should address the issues that have resulted in the condition for which certification is required. It is inappropriate for slaughter premises to be used as dumping grounds for unfit animals if no attempt is being made to minimise the development of such conditions. Veterinarians should be aware that MPIVS veterinarians will query repetitive presentation of unfit animals from a particular farmer, so that particulars of attempts to address such problems on farm may be requested.

Veterinarians should be confident that the expiry date they specify on the certificate sets a timeframe within which no significant deterioration in the animal’s condition will occur – the time frame will reflect the nature of the problem but must not exceed 7 days. The owner/person in charge of the animal should be reminded that a certificate is valid for Page 3 of 8 12a - Fitness of Livestock for Transport including Veterinary Certificate – Mar13 the specified period only.

If circumstances (such as geographical isolation) mean the 7-day timeframe cannot be met, the veterinarian may allow up to 3 extra days, but ONLY if in the veterinarian’s opinion there will be no significant deterioration in the animal’s condition. Failing this, a re-evaluation will be required (this may mean a further examination).

The veterinarian must specify the conditions under which an animal is to be transported. For example, a separate compartment, how many other animals are to be transported in the same compartment, on the bottom deck etc.

The distance to travel and the time spent on the truck need to be considered when assessing any animal for transport – time and distance must be as short as possible, with the animal going directly from the farm to the nearest slaughter premises.

The location of the slaughter premises must be stated1. The nearest premises may not be that normally used by the owner/person in charge.

Certified animals should be considered as animal welfare or hospital cases. If the nearest slaughter premises cannot slaughter them, then other on farm options need to be considered.

It is the responsibility of the owner/person in charge of the animal to advise the transport operator of any certified animal requiring transport when contacted regarding the consignment, and of conveying all conditions to the operator before his/her arrival at the point of pick-up.

It is the responsibility of the owner/person in charge of the animals to advise his/her agent and the slaughter premises of the pending arrival of a certified animal before the animal is transported.

It is the responsibility of the transport operator and processor to ensure the animal is transported to the stated premises and not re-routed.

Responsibility The person in charge of an animal changes as it moves from the farm to its final destination. The responsibility for implementing the minimum standards therefore lies with the person(s) selecting and presenting animals for transport, and also the person(s) or organisation(s) accepting the animals for transport.

Transport operators and their staff need to consider the fitness for transport of animals they are to carry and are obliged to refuse animals that they consider to be unfit for transport unless they have veterinary certification.


Section 29 of the Animal Welfare Act makes it an offence to counsel, procure, aid or abet any other person to do an act or refrain from doing an act as a result from doing an act as a result of which an animal suffers unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

See http://www.nzva.org.nz for slaughter plant locations.

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All species – Conditions not acceptable for an animal to be transported

1. Acute systemic infection, sick, or showing evidence of an infectious disease. Clinically these animals may have an elevated temperature, be depressed, have abnormal respiration, there may be signs of discharge, etc.

2. Purulent discharge i.e. discharging pus from a wound or orifice.

3. Acute external injury, wound or trauma that would, without treatment, compromise its welfare.

4. Chronic injury not substantially healed that would compromise the welfare of the animal.

5. Recumbent and unable to stand.

6. Abdominal incidents that cause pain e.g. intussusceptions, twisted bowel, twisted uterus.

7. Retained foetal membranes.

8. Prolapsed uterus, vagina, or rectum. (Note possible exception – See Porcine section for grower pigs).

9. Blindness in both eyes and likely to become distressed or suffer injury.

10. Any long-standing infection or condition that would have responded to veterinary treatment but where neglect has led to unnecessary pain and suffering. Sending such an animal to slaughter as a form of “treatment’” is not acceptable.

11. Any condition not listed where there is obvious pain or distress.

12. The code of welfare for transport allows transport of animals no earlier than 7 days of being disbudded, dehorned, castrated, tail docked of having velvet antler removed. A longer period may be required if wounds have not sufficiently healed. It is not appropriate to provide a veterinary certificate in these circumstances.

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