Animal welfare: information for veterinarians

It is important for veterinarians to understand when examining and treating an animal in a veterinary practice, you or your staff have temporary custody of the animal. As such, you or your staff may, for the purposes of the Animal Welfare Act 2002, be the person in charge or control of the animal. As a person in charge or control of an animal, veterinarians and their staff have the same responsibilities to animals under the Act as the rest of the community. This responsibility extends to animals brought into your practice where the owner is not known and you accept the care of the animal.

Animal Welfare Act 2002

The Animal Welfare Act 2002 (the Act) contains some specific provisions relating to veterinarians. The Act allows veterinarians:

  • to undertake tail docking of a dog in certain circumstances in the interests of an animal's welfare
  • a defence to a charge of cruelty (other than in relation to prescribed surgical practice or activity) for the person to prove that they were a veterinary surgeon, or were acting on the instructions of a veterinary surgeon and were providing the animals with veterinary care in accordance with generally accepted veterinary practices.


Contact information

Animal Welfare General Enquiries
Page last updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2018 - 4:42pm

Further information on reporting animal cruelty is available.


Mark Stuart