Joint duty of care
More than one person can have duty of care to animals at the same time. Joint duty of care happens in many circumstances, such as when an animal is placed into the care of someone other than the owner.
Even if you take charge of an animal for a short time, you take on duty-of-care obligations. The person in charge of the animal and the animal's owner then have a joint duty of care to the animal.
You cannot be held responsible for events that occurred before you took charge of an animal. But you are responsible for your actions, or lack of actions, once you do take charge.
Each situation is different so it's not possible to rule who has more or less responsibility at any time. However, you must be aware of your duty of care responsibility and act in a reasonable way to care for any animal.
Joint duty-of-care situations
Sale and transport of livestock
During the sale and transport of livestock, the original owner, livestock agent, livestock agents' company, transport company, transport driver and purchaser all share a duty of care to ensure the animals' welfare before, during and following transport.
If animals go through a saleyard during the selling process, this shared legal responsibility extends to the saleyard agent and saleyard superintendent.
The extent of any individual's responsibility may vary according to the stage of the transport process and sale conditions.
Where someone is agisting their animals on someone else's property, the owner of the animal (the agistor) and manager of the property where the animals are agisted (the agistee) both may be in charge of the agisted animals and therefore have a duty of care.
In company arrangements, both the company and managers on the properties where its animals are kept are in charge, so both parties have a duty of care to the animals.
Animal ownership syndicates
In syndicate arrangements where various investors share the ownership of animals, such as racehorses and ostrich farms, the syndicate members and the person managing the animals may all have a duty of care.
Mortgage holders or receivers
If a mortgagor, receiver or other security holder over animals takes legal steps to enforce their mortgage or security, they immediately incur a duty of care to the animals, as does any third party employed to recover the animals.
If people own a block of land and run a few cattle or horses on it they may not want to regularly care for the animals or may live too far away, so they make arrangements for someone else to care for the animals. In this case, both parties may have the legal duty of care.
If complaints about lack of proper care for the animals arise, it can be much easier and less costly to resolve the situation if there is a documented agreement, signed by both parties, which identifies who is responsible for the care and supervision of the animals.
- Read the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001.