Veterinary advice: livestock fitness for transport

Animals unfit for an intended journey must only be transported under veterinary advice.

As a veterinarian, you may be asked by livestock owners or consignors to make informed recommendations about whether an animal is fit for transport. You should not give authorisation for unfit livestock to be transported without providing strategies on how the animal can be transported to minimise the risk of adverse welfare outcomes.

Completing your assessment

The Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines: Land transport of livestock (the standards) include requirements that must be met for livestock welfare purposes during transport.

When professionally assessing an animal considered unfit for transport, you should:

  • complete the assessment in person so you can clearly review the problem, for example, a penetrating ingrown horn. Do not rely on photographs
  • provide specific advice about if and how an animal should be transported, including any special conditions the client should address to safely transport the animal
  • consider the journey time, weather conditions, vehicle suitability and other possible risks that could worsen the animal's condition.

If an animal is at risk, you should advise the client on strategies that allow transport but reduce pain and discomfort to the animal being moved.

Each situation is different, but strategies may include:

  • treating a disease or injury before transport
  • isolating the unfit animal from other animals by transporting in a separate stall, crate or different vehicle
  • providing pain relief
  • undertaking husbandry procedures where appropriate (e.g. tipping overgrown horns)
  • providing the animal with more frequent breaks during the journey.

You should document your observations in the medical records to support your recommendations and include photographs where possible. You should also ensure you can identify the animal(s) of interest in case of further enquiries about the consignment.

Animals considered unfit for an intended journey

Fitness for an intended journey is outlined in theAnimal Care and Protection Act 2001 and Regulations and generally refers to livestock species. Refer to Schedule 5 Code of practice for transport of livestock under the Animal Care and Protection Regulation 2023.

An animal is unfit for an intended journey if it's experiencing any of the following:

  • unable to walk on its own by bearing weight on all legs
  • severely emaciated or visibly dehydrated
  • showing visible signs of severe injury or distress
  • suffering from conditions that are likely to cause increased pain or distress during transport
  • blind in both eyes
  • known to be, or visually assessed to be near (within 2 weeks) parturition, as specified in each species requirements in Schedule 5 of the Regulation, unless time off water and journey is less than 4 hours duration to another property.

Your legal obligation

Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1936, signing or giving a professional certificate, notice or report that is incomplete, false or misleading in a material respect may be determined to be professional misconduct.

Telemedicine (the use of electronic communications to provide clinical services to patients where you do not directly interact with the animal) must only be conducted if you are a registered veterinarian practising from a premises that has been approved by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Queensland. A bona fide veterinarian-client-patient relationship must also be established.

Also consider...

  • Phone Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 if you have specific concerns for the welfare of livestock.