Veterinary prescribing rights


Ratification Date: 02 Aug 2018


  1. Veterinary prescribing rights (to obtain, possess, administer, prescribe, supply or recommend veterinary chemicals, medicines or poisons) are a privilege conferred on individual registered veterinarians. The responsible exercise of prescribing rights by veterinarians is critical in ensuring the ongoing availability of appropriate medication to treat and manage animal disease, and to ensure good animal welfare outcomes.
  2. Legislation and regulation affecting veterinary prescribing rights must be harmonised across jurisdictions, including the federal, state and territory governments, and among regulatory agencies.
  3. Legislation must also be appropriately enforced to restrict use of prescription animal remedies by non-veterinarians, as this poses risks to animal health and welfare, public health and safety, withholding period and residue violations, and international trade.


Veterinary prescribing rights impart authority to enable access by owners to veterinary medicines that might otherwise be unavailable because of scheduling, label directions or not being registered as a veterinary chemical for the species or purpose.

Veterinary prescribing rights are limited by legislation or regulation across different jurisdictions nationally. They are essential to ensuring availability of treatments for animals to ensure optimal animal health and welfare, and public health. Restrictions on general access to these chemicals, medicines and poisons is also appropriate for maintenance of public health and safety, and international trade.


Veterinary prescribing rights should only be exercised in the course of one’s practice as a registered veterinary surgeon. Adequate knowledge of the following is required in order to exercise veterinary prescribing rights judiciously: the relevant legislation; the species being treated; the purpose for which the medicine is being administered; the properties of the veterinary medicine; and knowledge of the animal(s) under treatment and the owner or enterprise involved.

Veterinarians exercising prescribing rights must provide adequate directions in writing and ensure these are made available to those administering the veterinary medicine or likely to be affected by their contact with the treated animals.

To ensure the safety of humans or animals in contact with treated animals, and to protect trade, veterinarians must have, and appropriately exercise, the authority to extend the withholding or rehandling periods for registered veterinary chemicals, or to establish those periods when they do not exist, including for unregistered chemicals. The obligation to observe those extended periods must be affirmed to animal owners and industries.

Regulation requires that veterinary prescribing rights should not be exercised contrary to a label restraint; however many of these restraints require urgent review because they are precautionary in nature or may have little scientific basis. Veterinarians should observe best practice prescribing specific to each class of veterinary chemical.

The exercise of veterinary prescribing rights requires a veterinarian to consider whether a substance may be misused in performance animals, used or abused in humans or administered contrary to a restraint or other prohibition, which may include whether a treated animal or product may be excluded from a particular activity or market. Examples include the administration of certain substances in racing and administration of sex hormones to livestock intended for Europe.


Agencies regulating the use of veterinary chemicals or medicines in any animal industry should communicate and affirm to participants in those industries their obligations in respect of the use of any veterinary chemical or medicine requiring veterinary authorisation. This responsibility should not be delegated to veterinarians without adequate resources or support from the relevant agency.

Veterinary prescribing rights should be formally recognised as a key component of the national framework for managing the availability and use of AgVet chemicals.

Related policies

AVA Code of Practice for the use of prescription animal remedies in the poultry industry

AVA Code of Practice for the use of prescription animal remedies in the pig industry