As of the 9th May 2021 there is a change to animal welfare regulations. The changes cover a wide range of surgical procedures, including ones often carried out by the farmer such as tail docking and dealing with bearings.  The regulations were due to come into force in May 2020 but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the changes were deferred until May 2021.

The aim of the new regulations is to ensure that procedures on animals are carried out by the right people, with the right skill and care, to ensure the wellbeing of the animal. It is important that you are up to date with these changes, as breaches of the new rules can result in criminal convictions and fines of up to $5000 for an individual and $25000 for a body corporate.

The new rules require that where a person who is not a veterinarian is allowed to carry out a surgical procedure on an animal, they must be ‘competent’.

“To be ‘competent’, a person should be experienced with, or have received training in the correct use of the method for the procedure and have the appropriate skill and equipment to carry it out.

“The person carrying out a procedure must make sure they are competent to do so. The owner or the person in charge of the animal also has a responsibility to make sure that the person carrying out the procedure is competent,” says Dr Rodwell.

For some surgical procedures, the new rules require the use of pain relief. It is up to a veterinarian to authorise what type and to decide whether to allow a competent person who is not a veterinarian to administer it or to administer it themselves. Examples of the required pain relief are general and local anaesthetics and analgesic drugs.

Animals that are covered under the new regulations:

  • Farm animals (Dairy and Beef Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Pigs, Deer, Llamas and Alpacas),
  • Equids (Horses, Ponies, Donkeys, Mules, other wild asses, Zebras and any of their hybrids),
  • Poultry and game fowl,
  • Animals involved in research, testing and teaching,
  • Wild animals under a person’s control,
  • Animals involved in routine conservation and fisheries activities,
  • Other animals like Dogs, Rabbits and Rodents.

The new regulations:

  • continue to allow competent people who are not veterinarians to carry out some procedures – an example is treating sheep vaginal prolapses
  • make it clear that some procedures must only be carried out by a veterinarian – an example is castrating donkeys
  • make it clear that some procedures are banned, meaning no one, not even a veterinarian, can carry them out – an example is cropping dogs’ ears to make them stand up
  • make it clear that competent people can continue to carry out some procedures if the animal is given pain relief, with a veterinarian authorising what type and deciding whether to allow a competent person who is not a veterinarian to administer it, or to administer it themselves – examples are extracting wolf teeth from horses or other equids and disbudding goats.

Most of the rules cover surgical procedures but some cover other things – such as the use of electric prodders.

The changes that will affect most small block holders involve bearings (sheep vaginal prolapses) and docking tails.


A bearing or vaginal prolapse needs to be treated by a competent person with the appropriate knowledge, experience, and equipment to do so. This includes treatment of a complete prolapse of the uterus.

It is slightly more complicated with cattle beasts and includes regulations around pain relief and under guidance of a veterinarian.


The only approved methods of tail docking are by hot iron or rubber ring. This must be done before the lamb reaches 6 months of age and by a competent, trained individual. If tail docking needs to be completed after 6 months of age, this must be done by a veterinarian.

There is also a new requirement regarding the length of the tail after docking. “The length of the docked tail must be no shorter than the end of the caudal fold” this is the fold of skin that runs from the underside of the tail to either side of the anus.

For more information and a full list of Animal Welfare changes go to: