Duty of care to livestock

The duty of care applies to all types of animals and animal uses. However, keeping livestock also involves special circumstances that make it especially important that everyone involved understand their duty of care.

The people who might be in charge of livestock and have a legal duty of care include:

  • owners, including companies that own livestock
  • managers
  • property staff
  • contractors
  • transport drivers
  • saleyard staff
  • abattoir workers
  • syndicate owners
  • agistors
  • agistees and lessees.

The duty of care obligation requires these people to provide for an animal's needs in regard to feed, water and living conditions, including protection from predators.

Livestock codes, standards and guidelines

National animal welfare standards, guidelines and model codes of practice cover several livestock species and transport and handling situations. These standards, guidelines and codes apply to commercial livestock, as well as peri-urban and hobby farm situations. They also apply to handling situations including saleyards and slaughtering establishments.

You may need to be familiar with several codes of practice to fully understand your responsibilities in managing, transporting and marketing your livestock. The Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 formally recognises model codes of practice as either voluntary codes or compulsory codes.

Although voluntary codes are not compulsory, you should refer to them if you are in charge of livestock to ensure that you meet your duty of care. If someone makes a complaint about the care of your livestock, animal welfare inspectors will use these codes to assess whether you are meeting your duty of care. They could issue you with a direction to improve the welfare of your animals.

In the case of livestock transport, many different people share a joint duty of care at various stages of the process. The livestock transport animal welfare codes outline the responsibilities of some of the parties involved.

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