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New rules around animal surgery

NEW rules on who can carry out some surgical procedures on animals and how they must be done are expected to be in place from May next year.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says the new regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 will make it clear who can do what surgical procedures and how they must be done.

They cover a wide variety of surgical procedures carried out on a wide range of animals by veterinarians and others — from specialist procedures to routine ones such as disbudding, dehorning, and lamb tail docking.

MPI's director of animal health and welfare, Dr Chris Rodwell, a veterinarian, says the new rules will mostly allow competent people to continue doing routine procedures on animals. Some new rules will raise the standard.

“Procedures on animals must be carried out by the right people with the right skills and care, to ensure the wellbeing of animals,” says Dr Rodwell.

“People who own animals or are in charge of them — including people who work with animals — should check now to see if they need to change what they do or the way they do it.”

There are new offences and penalties for some breaches of the new rules — including some that may result in a criminal conviction and a fine of up to $5000 for an individual or $25,000 for a body corporate.

These penalties target minor to moderate offending. More serious offending can be dealt with under the existing offences in the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

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.

“The Government has approved regulatory policies, most of which are expected to come into force in May 2020, with some expected to come into force on May 2.”