The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep contain standards for the welfare of all sheep, in all types of farming enterprises in Australia from extensive grazing to fully housed systems. They apply to all those with responsibilities for the care and management of sheep, including both the wool and sheepmeat industries.
The Sheep S&G were endorsed by state and territory governments in 2016. They replace the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: The Sheep (PISC report 89, CSIRO Publishing, 2006).
A large number of stakeholders including; welfare organisations, livestock industry representatives and service providers were involved in shaping the Sheep S&G. Animal Health Australia managed the process on behalf of all government and industry members. The Sheep S&G were drafted by a small writing group comprising researchers, government and industry representatives, supported by a widely representative reference group.
The main decision-making principles used in development were to ensure the Sheep S&G are:
desirable for livestock welfare
feasible for industry and government to implement
important for the livestock-welfare regulatory framework
achieve the intended outcome for livestock welfare.
As part of the process for developing the Sheep S&G, a Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was developed and endorsed by the Commonwealth Office of Best Practice Regulation. The Decision RIS assessed the proposed standards and incorporated public consultation feedback and changes agreed by the majority of the group responsible for guiding the development of the Sheep S&G.
Consultation on the draft Sheep S&G was open from March to August in 2013.
Views were sought from interested parties about how the draft Sheep S&G would help protect the welfare of sheep. Also open for comment was the associated Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), which aimed to demonstrate the need for the Sheep S&G, and identified the key costs and benefits for sheep, producers, the government, and the wider community.
Stakeholders gave feedback before finalisation of the Sheep S&G. The following Final Sheep Public Consultation Response Action Plan provides a summary of the invited comments and submissions received during the five-month public consultation period for the draft Sheep S&G and the associated Consultation RIS, and the subsequent consideration of these documents by the Sheep writing and reference groups.
The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep were agreed upon by State and Territory Governments in 2016 and have been or are being regulated into law by most. The implementation dates (as of June 2023) for the Sheep S&G by state and territory are listed below:
Australian Capital Territory
Awaiting final modification to align with the animal welfare laws in the ACT
New South Wales
The Sheep S&G are prescribed guidelines under Section 34A of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. This means that they are not mandatory but can be used as evidence in proceedings under the Act or its Regulation. Commenced 15th December 2017.
Current Animal Protection Act 2018 (and Regulations) is to be reviewed at end 2023. Adoption of the Sheep S&G is to be included and considered as part of any proposed amendments to the animal protection legislative framework.
QLD regulated the Sheep S&G as a code of practice requirement under the Animal Care and Protection Regulation 2012 on 1 July 2021. A code of practice under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 is a mandatory code.
The South Australian regulations to mandate the standards incorporated in Sheep S&G came into operation on 15th April 2017.
The standards in the Sheep S&G are currently being written into regulations, the Animal Welfare (Sheep) Regulations 2023. These regulations are nearly finalised and will be gazetted and as of April 2023 are to be tabled within the next two months.
Victoria intends to adopt the Sheep S&G into legislation subject to normal policy development processes. In adopting the standards into regulation, Victoria will avoid duplication or lowering of existing animal welfare requirements. It is anticipated that national standards and guidelines agreed to by Victoria will be adopted through the new proposed Animal Welfare Act. This legislation is currently under development.
WA intends to implement the standards set out in the Sheep S&G as regulations. WA also intends to adopt the Sheep Standards and Guidelines as a code of practice under its Animal Welfare Act 2002. This will mean that, where a person has been charged with cruelty, compliance with the Sheep S&G will be able to be used as a defence to the charge and non-compliance will have to be taken into consideration by the court. Regulations are currently being drafted. It is anticipated that the regulations will be implemented towards the end of 2023.