Feral livestock code

The Australian 'Model code of practice for the destruction or capture, handling and marketing of feral livestock animals' is a voluntary code under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. It contains information and guidelines to provide minimum acceptable outcomes of animal welfare for feral livestock.

Feral livestock animals are domesticated livestock species that have returned to a wild or undomesticated state. Feral livestock includes:

  • pigs
  • horses
  • cattle
  • Arabian camels
  • donkeys
  • goats
  • swamp buffalo
  • deer.

Feral livestock does not include native fauna, such as kangaroos and dingoes, or non-livestock animals, such as foxes, rabbits and feral cats.

The code promotes animal welfare outcomes for feral animals by defining acceptable animal management practices, and encouraging considerate and efficient treatment and handling.

The code has been developed in consultation with animal industries, animal welfare groups, and relevant state and federal government groups. It is one of a series of national animal welfare codes for livestock.

Aspects of the feral livestock code

The feral livestock animal code provides guidelines for promoting the welfare of feral livestock captured for domestication or abattoir slaughter, or destroyed in control programs.

The code covers the animal welfare aspects of:

  • culling
  • humane destruction
  • capture and handling
  • trap usage
  • accommodation and handling facilities
  • food and water
  • health and routine inspections
  • transportation
  • domestication and management practices
  • poisons used in feral livestock animal control
  • firearms and ammunition suitable for the humane destruction of livestock feral animals
  • specific requirements for capture and handling of different species
  • the use of dogs to capture feral pigs.

The code outlines situations when it is acceptable to use trained dogs to hunt feral pigs. Hunters must become familiar with the code's requirements for using dogs to hunt feral pigs. These include ensuring that:

  • hunters use only a properly trained dog that responds to the commands of the operator to locate and flush a feral pig in thick cover
  • dogs do not harass, attack and bring down feral pigs
  • pigs are killed humanely.

The code does not cover the use of dogs to bail up or hold pigs. In most circumstances, it should be acceptable for dogs to bail up pigs (without making contact with them) until the hunter arrives to kill the pig.

However, under the Animal Care and Protection Act, landholders and hunters are obligated to not cause any animal unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable pain.

When hunters allow dogs to hold pigs, they risk inflicting terrible injuries on the pig and significant injury to the dog. So, although dogs can be helpful in locating and flushing out pigs, using them to attack or bring down pigs is unacceptable. Any terrorising or wounding of the pig by a dog is unacceptable.

Note: This code is not a comprehensive manual on how to care for feral livestock and does not provide detailed information on topics such as feeding or transport.

Welfare of hunting dogs

Hunters have a duty of care to the dogs in their charge. Dogs used for hunting should be protected by chest and neck armour made of appropriate material, such as Kevlar, leather or chain mail.

As dogs can sustain injuries from the pig or during the chase, you need to take steps to minimise these risks. Any injuries must be treated promptly and appropriately.

Duty of care to feral livestock animals

Anyone who owns, manages, transports or handles feral livestock may have a legal duty of care and be responsible for ensuring acceptable welfare standards for the animals in their charge. This includes:

  • professional hunters
  • recreational hunters
  • stock managers
  • stock handlers
  • contractors
  • national parks staff
  • saleyard agents
  • veterinarians
  • processors
  • transporters
  • feral animal control operators
  • landholders.

Other welfare codes relevant to feral livestock

Anyone involved in transporting these feral animals should read the code of practice for land transport of horses and land transport of pigs.

More information on the appropriate care and handling of feral livestock is contained in the animal welfare codes for animals at saleyards and livestock at slaughtering establishments.

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