Improving animal welfare
Improving animal welfare is one of the AVA's three strategic priorities.
Veterinarians support and enhance animal welfare in every aspect of their professional lives. Whether in research, teaching or clinical practice, veterinarians consider the welfare of animals their first priority.
Veterinarians are scientists and take an evidence-based approach to animal welfare. The Australian Veterinary Association bases its policies and advocacy activities on scientific evidence. At the same time, it is widely accepted that assessments of animal welfare also involve considerations that are ethical in nature.
To acknowledge the ethical dimension of animal welfare, the AVA has adopted a statement of principles that articulates the ethical basis for our policies and advocacy on animal welfare issues.
Statement of principles
Humans have a duty of care to protect animals. Where a person does not meet his or her obligations to animals in his or her care, animals may suffer. When this happens, the law must be able to adequately intervene to enforce compliance and prevent suffering.
Animals have intrinsic value, and should be treated humanely by the people who benefit from them. Owned animals should be safe from physical and psychological harm. They need access to water and species-appropriate food and shelter, and should be able to fulfil their important behavioural and social needs. They must receive prompt veterinary care when required, and have as painless and stress-free a death as possible.
Animals can be used to benefit humans if they are humanely treated, but the benefit to people should be balanced against the cost to the animal. They should not be used in direct combat or for purposes where suffering, injury or distress is likely to be caused.
Humans should strive to provide positive experiences to promote a life worth living for the animals in their care. We should strive for continuous and incremental improvement in the treatment and welfare of animals.
Humans have a responsibility to care for the natural environment of free-living native animals. People should take steps to preserve endangered species, and protect native animals from disease where possible.
The purpose of this program is to identify tangible goals to improve animal welfare, and speak up on issues that are important to our members.
Love is Blind campaign
The focus of the companion animals stream is inherited disorders in pure-bred dogs. We continue to work in collaboration with RSPCA Australia to address specific visible heritable traits that impact on health and welfare – our "Love is Blind" campaign launched in 2016.
Focusing on exaggerated breed features such as brachycephaly (flattened facial features), dwarfism (chondrodysplasia) and excessive skin folds, the aim is to increase public awareness of the negative welfare implications of these exaggerated physical traits, and reduce their use in advertising.
The AVA also supports the VetCompass project, gathering and analysing data on all inherited conditions in companion animals. Ultimately the aim is for breed societies to change their breed standards to select for healthy phenotypes.
Anaesthesia-free dentistry campaign
We are launching an awareness campaign in 2019 about the welfare problems associated with "cosmetic teeth cleaning" performed on companion animals by lay providers (so-called "Anaesthesia-free dentistry").
Pet Food Regulation
PetFAST is a system to track health problems in dogs and cats that are suspected of being associated with pet food, treats and pet meat. It is designed to identify possible patterns that might point to a cause.
PetFAST is a voluntary joint initiative of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA).
In 2017 and 2018 the AVA was involved in responding to two separate pet food adverse events affecting cats and dogs nationally. A Senate Enquiry on the safety of pet food was undertaken in the first half of 2018, with AVA providing both written and verbal evidence into the enquiry. The Senate Report was released in October 2018, reflecting many of the AVA's recommendations.
The AVA is part of an ongoing government working group on this issue, where we will provide expert advice on regulation of pet food quality and recall in instances of adverse events.
Our submission into the Senate Enquiry can be viewed here:
Regulatory approaches to ensure the safety of pet food – 20 July 2018
Companion animal management
Pets are an important part of Australian families and communities. Part of socially-responsible pet ownership is ensuring pets are properly socialised, trained and cared for. In a minority of cases, poor management leads to issues including dog bites, and unwanted companion animals. The AVA regularly provides advice to the government and community on these issues. Some information is avalable at the following links.
In 2018, the ACV launched WELFARECHECK, which is a resource for creating farm welfare plans in consulation with producers. Using this resource, ACV members can promote high standards of animal welfare on-farm, to improve productivity and profitability, and meet community expectations for the treatment of livestock.
AVA is also involved in the development of national animal welfare standards and guidelines; these include development of standards for poultry welfare, welfare at abattoirs, and pig welfare.
Since early 2018, the AVA has been involved in the review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL Review). We have been part of the government's Reference Group for this review, and have contributed a series of submissions into this process:
- Review of the Australian standards for the export of livestock – Stage 1 – February 2018
- Review of the Australian standards for the export of livestock - Stage 1 – April 2018
- Stage 2 ASEL Review. AVA response to Stage 2 Issues Paper – 19 September 2018
- ASEL Draft Revised Standards. AVA submission – 27 November 2018
- Review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock: Air Transport – May 2019
In April 2018, following a 60 Minutes program about live export of sheep to the Middle East, the government launched an additional review of the Heat Stress Risk Assessment model currently applied to live export. AVA made detailed science-based contributions to this review process, specifically on the scientific basis of thermoregulation and heat stress in sheep, and this has had a significant impact on the government's response to this issue. Our submissions can be viewed here:
- AVA Review of Heat Stress and Stocking Density (Submisson to the McCarthy Review) – 4 May 2018
- Heat Stress Risk Assessment (HotStuff) Review. AVA submission – 19 October 2018
- AVA Response to HSRA Technical Panel Review. – 1 March 2019
- AVA Response to Proposed Summer Sheep Trade Arrangements – 21 March 2019
- AVA Response to Proposed Summer Sheep Trade Arrangements (September and October 2019) – submitted July 2019
- Monitoring and reporting during live export voyages - review by the Interim Inspector-General of Live Animal exports (IIGLAE) - October 2019
- AVA Response to Policy Options for 2020 Summer Sheep Trade Middle East – October 2019
- AVA Response to RIS for 2020 Summer Sheep Trade Middle East – February 2020
Other relevant policies and position statements
National leadership in animal welfare
In 2015 the AVA convened the Animal Welfare Roundtable in cooperation with RSPCA Australia and the National Farmers Federation. This meeting included key representatives from all the major stakeholder organisations from across the country as well as people who were involved with the former Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS). It has led to ongoing dialogue with stakeholders about the need for national leadership in animal welfare, and we continue to lobby the Commonwealth Government on this issue. This will be a key aspect of our 2019 Federal election platform.
Reactive animal welfare advocacy
The AVA continues to be active on a number of specific animal welfare topics which receive a high level of attention in the public debate. Ongoing priorities include:
- Puppy farms and breeding standards
- Breed-specific legislation and dangerous dog regulation
- Urban animal management and unwanted companion animals
- Online advertising of companion animals.
- Greyhound racing reforms
Other priorities include:
- National Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines
- Restricted acts of veterinary science
- Equine dentistry
- Hendra virus
- Humane control of invasive species
- Statutory review of the NSW Greyhound Racing Act 2009 – 2 March 2015
- Criminal Code Amendment Bill - Animal Protection – 12 March 2015
- ACT submission on cat containment program – 16 March 2015
- Submission on proposed Welfare and Integrity Levy Greyhound racing NSW – 12 March 2015
- Advice requested by Greyhounds Australasia of the greyhound and behaviour SIGs on greyhound behaviour topics – 26 March 2015
- Review of the Qld greyhound racing industry – 30 March 2015
- Code of practice for the operation or breeding and rearing businesses – 20 April 2015
- Assessment of best practice rearing, socialisation, education and training methods for greyhounds in racing context – 1 May 2015
- NHMRC Principles and guidelines for the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes (Public Consultation Draft 2015) – 8 May 2015
- RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standards – Pullets Consultation Draft 2015 – 18 May 2015
- Greyhound Racing in Tasmania – 12 June 2015
- Submission into NSW Parliamentary Enquiry into Companion Animal Breeding Practices in NSW – 12 June 2015
- QLD greyhound racing industry commission of inquiry – 17 June 2015
- Greyhound Racing in Victoria – 14 July 2015
- Select committee into the operation of RSPCA WA – 1 September 2015
- Consultation on Puppy farming in QLD – 3 September 2015
- Free range egg labelling – 22 October 2015
- Early Age Desexing (letter to breeder) – 5 November 2015
- NSW greyhound racing inquiry – 23 November 2015
- Proposed changes to the ACT pest animal control – 18 December 2015
- Submission regarding the enquiry into governance for the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry – 12 January 2016
- QLD racing integrity bill – 25 January 2016
- Pregnancy diagnosis of cattle for live export – 2 February 2016
- Submission into the inquiry of the Waroona Bushfire – 4 March 2016
- Protecting puppies bill in Queensland – 8 March 2016
- Draft standards and guidelines for goats – 16 March 2016
- Hendra Virus Vaccine and its use in QLD – 22 April 2016
- Proposed Local Rule 106A - Greyhound Surrender and euthanasia – 13 May 2016
- NSW Pest Animal Management Review March 2016 – 16 May 2016
- AUSVETPLAN draft revised Hendra virus response policy brief, version 4 – 15 July 2016
- Equine Discussion Paper - proposed changes to equine training products to address training safety issues and concerns including consideration of ASQA recommendations – 1 August 2016
- Code of practice for the keeping of racing greyhounds VIC – 10 August 2017
- NSW Wild Horse Management Plan– 19 August 2016
- Australian Animal Pest Strategy 2017-2027 – 31 October 2016
- Response to the recommendations of the greyhound industry reform panel – 28 February 2017
- Comment on draft structure for Racing IRC – 23 March 2017
- Inquiry into the RSPCA VIC – 30 March 2017
- Managing infection risk at petting zoos – 28 April 2017
- DPI standards guidelines prevention of cruelty to animals (breeding pet shops)
- Submission to feral horse strategic plan
- Supporting amendments to the domestic animals regulations 2015
- Poultry Standards and Guidelines
- Vegetation management and other legislation amendment bill – 21 March 2018
- Australia's Faunal Extinction crisis – 4 September 2018
- Senate Inquiry Submission: Impact of feral deer, pigs and goats in Australia – 30 October 2018
- Review of the Code of Practice 2018 (No 1) for the ‘Keeping and Breeding of Racing Greyhounds in the ACT’ – March 2019
- “Pathway B” – Draft poultry standards for a conventional cage phase out for layer hens – April 2019
- NSW Volunteer Wildlife rehabilitationa Sector strategy – April 2019
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations Draft Regulations - October 2019
- Animal Welfare and Farm Trespass - April 2020
- Uniform Companion Animal Legislation in the Northern Territory - April 2020
- AVA-NSW-Animal Welfare Reform Issues Paper - June 2020
- AVA Submission - Reuniting lost pets review - Aug 2020
- AVA Submission - Feral and Domestic Cats - 2020
- Animals that are known to be both conscious and sentient include all of the vertebrates, and some classes of invertebrates such as cephalopods and probably some crustacea. Ongoing research may lead to inclusion of additional groups within this definition. Sentience is the capacity to experience emotions: pain, suffering, negative and positive affective states.
- Mellor DJ, Patterson-Kane E, & Stafford KJ. The Sciences of Animal Welfare. UFAW Animal Welfare Series. Chichester UK: Wiley-Blackwell. 2009: 34-52