Duty of care for animals

If you are in charge of an animal, you have a duty of care to that animal - no matter why you are in charge of it, what you are using it for or how long it will be in your care. Duty of care is based on the internationally recognised '5 freedoms' of animal welfare.

If you have a duty of care for an animal, you are legally obliged by the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 to provide 'appropriate care' for it by providing for its needs in a reasonable way. This includes:

  1. providing food and water
  2. providing accommodation or living conditions
  3. understanding your animal's normal behavioural patterns
  4. treating disease and injury
  5. handling the animal appropriately.

Appropriate care takes into consideration the animal's species, environment and circumstances, such as its age and where it lives, and what steps a reasonable person would take in the circumstances.

Lack of proper care can cause neglect and animal suffering. An animal welfare inspector may visit to investigate whether you have breached your legal duty of care.

If you are getting an animal, particularly one you haven't had before, you must understand your duty of care. Never get any animal until you know how much time and money you'll need to meet your legal duty of care. This may mean finding detailed information on animal care.

This guide explains who has duty of care to animals in different situations.