20 October 2020

After more than ten years of discussion and broad consultation with community and industry, Western Australia has finally adopted regulations intended to ensure the welfare of sheep and cattle during land transport, and at saleyards and depots. The Animal Welfare (Transport, Saleyards and Depots) (Cattle and Sheep) Regulations 2020 (“Transport Regulations”) have been introduced in Western Australia – the last state in the country to implement such regulations.

The RSPCA has had significant input into these regulations from day one and we are pleased to see many of the suggestions we made during the consultation process included in the final document. These include clarifying aspects of livestock being unfit for sale, the use of the term “livestock animal” to emphasise the importance of the welfare of individual animals, and consistent time-based assessments to confirm an animal is dead.

The Transport Regulations create more than 50 new offences relating to the treatment of sheep and cattle during land transport and provide for maximum fines of $5000, $7500 or $15,000 for those offences. At the same time, amendments to the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations 2003 give animal welfare inspectors new options to enforce compliance with national livestock transport standards. Until now, non-compliance with the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (the Act) was dealt with through the courts by means of charges for cruelty. It is a significant advance in regulating livestock transport that non-compliance with livestock transport standards can now be dealt with by an infringement notice, with monetary penalties ranging from $500 to $750 (that is, 10 per cent of the maximum fine). This means that the risks to the welfare of livestock can be more effectively prevented before any cruelty occurs. More serious cases of non-compliance with the Transport Regulations can be referred to the courts where fines of up to $15,000 will apply.

However, other legislative complications mean that infringement notices issued by RSPCA inspectors cannot be enforced. During the many years that no infringement notices could be issued under the Act, this omission was immaterial. Now that infringement notices can be issued, the anomaly is more significant and is a barrier to effective law enforcement. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has recognised this discrepancy and has committed to resolve it. RSPCA WA is keen to be involved in the development of practical processes to implement the use, and enforcement, of infringement notices.

RSPCA WA would like to see some aspects of the regulations regarding euthanasia of livestock improved. For example, the regulations still use outdated terms such as humane destruction which is not in tune with the contemporary view of livestock as sentient beings. Another issue is around the definitions of an animal’s fitness which appear to be inconsistent with the industry endorsed and widely used Meat & Livestock Australia Limited Fit to Load Guide (FTLG). For example, the FTLG notes that animals with leg deformities are not fit to load. However, leg deformities are not listed in the Transport Regulations as a prescribed condition. In reality, this means if an animal had a leg deformity that did not prevent it from walking and bearing weight on all limbs, but could cause considerable pain during transport, it wouldn’t contravene the Transport Regulations but would not meet the FTLG recommendations. This inconsistency creates a source of confusion.

RSPCA WA considers that the regulations still allow some unacceptable methods of euthanasia and that the regulations around dragging an animal are clumsy and unclear. RSPCA WA would prefer the regulations state that dragging an animal that can stand, for specific purposes such as shearing, would make the intent more clear.

More information about the Transport Regulations, including FAQs, are available from DPIRD’s website