Improving animal welfare


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.  See: AVA Statement of Principles

Animal welfare advocacy

The AVA is active on a number of specific animal welfare topics which receive a high level of attention in the public domain. Ongoing priorities include:

  • National Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines
  • Analgesia for painful husbandry procedures
  • Humane slaughter practices, including in emergency disease responses
  • Restricted acts of veterinary science
  • 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
  • Humane control of invasive species

Companion animal campaigns

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 have called for implementation of mandatory pet food standards, and an enforceable framework for recall and investigation of adverse events. We are currently providing expert advice on updating the Australian Standard AS5812 and on the various regulatory options for pet food, and await the government response, expected late 2023. 

Our original submission into the Senate Enquiry can be viewed here:

Regulatory approaches to ensure the safety of pet food – 20 July 2018

Anaesthesia-free dentistry campaign

AVA launched 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").  We continue to raise this issue with State Veterinary Boards and during all updates of veterinary practice legislation across the jurisdictions.

See our policy: here  And Fact Sheet: here

Love is Blind campaign

The focus of this campaign 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.

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.

Production animals

Livestock welfare

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.

Live Export

Since early 2018, the AVA was 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:

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:

Other relevant policies and position statements 

Other submissions

Our advocacy work spans a number of areas

We monitor and respond to issues that may impact the profession, animals, and the community.

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