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The Animal Welfare Act 1999

The Animal Welfare Act 1999 governs the welfare of animals in New Zealand. It applies specifically to vertebrate animals (including fish), octopuses, squids, crabs, lobsters, and crayfish, but the general principles should also be applied to other species of animals kept in classrooms. It also includes any mammalian foetus or any avian or reptilian pre-hatched young in the last half of its period of gestation or development. It excludes human beings.

The Act requires 'owners of animals, and persons in charge of animals, to attend properly to the welfare of those animals'. This can be done by ensuring that an animal's physical, health, and behavioural needs are met by:

  • providing it with proper and sufficient food and water
  • providing it with adequate shelter
  • providing it with the opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour
  • handling it physically in a manner that minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress
  • protecting it from and rapidly diagnosing any significant injury or disease.

A specific part of the Act covers the use of live animals in research, testing, and teaching. These provisions make it an offence to manipulate live animals for teaching purposes unless this is done in accordance with a code of ethical conduct approved by the Schools’ Animal Ethics Committee.

In most cases, activities involving animals in an ECE centre or a school do not need ethical approval. (See Guidelines for Teachers, Educators, and Students for examples of these activities.)

Ethical approval is legally required only if live animals are to be manipulated for teaching (and other specified) purposes.

The terms "animal" and "manipulation" are defined in the Animal Welfare Act 1999 as follows.

"Animal"

(a) Means any live member of the animal kingdom that is:

  • A mammal
  • A bird
  • A reptile
  • An amphibian
  • A fish (bony or cartilaginous)
  • Any octopus, squid, crab, lobster, or crayfish (including freshwater crayfish)
  • Any other member of the animal kingdom which is declared from time to time by the Governor-General, by Order in Council, to be an animal for the purposes of this Act

(b) Includes any mammalian foetus, or any avian or reptilian pre-hatched young, that is in the last half of its period of gestation or development

(c) Includes any marsupial pouch young; but

(d) Does not include:

  • A human being
  • Except as provided in paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) of this definition, any animal in the prenatal, pre-hatched, larval, or other such developmental stage.

"Manipulation"

"Manipulation" in relation to an animal, means ... interfering with the normal physiological, behavioural, or anatomical integrity of the animal by deliberately:

(a) Subjecting it to a procedure which is unusual or abnormal when compared with that to which animals of that type would be subjected under normal management or practice and which involves:

  1. Exposing the animal to any parasite, micro-organism, drug, chemical, biological product, radiation, electrical stimulation, or environmental condition
  2. Enforced activity, restraint, nutrition, or surgical intervention

(b) Depriving it of usual care ...

The term ... does not include:

  1. Any therapy or prophylaxis necessary or desirable for the welfare of an animal
  2. The killing of an animal by the owner or person in charge (in the course) (as the end point) of research, testing, or teaching if the animal is killed in such a manner that the animal does not suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress
  3. The killing of an animal in order to undertake research, testing, or teaching on the dead animal or on prenatal or developmental tissue of the animal if the animal is killed in such a manner that the animal does not suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress
  4. The hunting or killing of any animal in a wild state by a method that is not an experimental method

Any procedure that the Minister declares ... not to be a manipulation for the purposes of this Act.


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