NSW Guidelines for the pinioning of birds

Preamble

The purpose of this document is to set out the justification for and guidelines relating to acceptable methods for pinioning birds.  This practice may only be conducted on birds held for exhibition to the public and subject to the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986.

By following the guidelines in this document an individual pinioning a bird will not be considered to have committed an act of cruelty as defined in section 4(2) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.

The following guidelines were approved on 7 June 1995 by the NSW Animal Welfare Advisory Council and are referred to in Clause 8A of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (General) Regulation 1996.

1. Introduction

Under section 4(2) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1979, an offence has been committed if an animal is "unreasonably, unnecessarily or unjustifiably: beaten, kicked, killed, wounded, pinioned, mutilated, maimed, abused, tormented, tortured, terrified or infuriated".

The purpose of this document is to set out guidelines for the justification and humane method under which pinioning may occur in the exhibited animals industry. By following the guidelines in this document it will be considered under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that an individual pinioning a bird for exhibition is exempt from this clause.

2. Definitions

2.1 Pinioning

A surgical procedure performed on a bird's wing to render the bird permanently incapable of flight. The definition of pinioning does not include feather clipping.

The operation typically involves amputation of that part of the wingtip from which the flight (primary) feathers grow by severing the second and third metacarpal bones. An alternative, but less effective operation is commonly referred to as tendonotomy. Tendonotomy involves the removal of part of a tendon from a wing causing reduced flying ability, but leaving the bird fully feathered.

It is only necessary to perform these procedures on one wing to prevent flight.

2.2 Feather clipping

Involves the cutting of the flight (primary) feathers of one wing, rendering the bird temporarily incapable of flight until the feathers are replaced at the next moult. Most adult birds molt only once a year and are usually clipped once a year. Juveniles may go through a rapid series of moults requiring frequent feather clipping to ensure flight is not possible.

3. Justification for Pinioning

In terms of exhibition, pinioning offers a number of advantages for both the animal exhibitor and the display bird.

3.1 The benefits to the animal exhibitor are:

  • that pinioned birds can be displayed in a more cost-effective way in larger, more open exhibits giving the visitors the impression that the birds are 'free';
  • the visitors can get closer to the birds;
  • it helps to ensure that the birds do not escape; and
  • the pinioned birds may serve to attract additional wild birds to utilise an open exhibit.

3.2 The benefits to the pinioned bird are:

  • a larger exhibit, if well designed, can provide greater avenues for behavioural enrichment than a smaller meshed enclosure which allows flight.
  • for nervous species, such as pheasants, pinioning prevents a startled bird from flying rapidly upwards which could otherwise result in the bird injuring or killing itself by colliding with the framework of the enclosure roof.

4. Guidelines

4.1  Prior to making a decision to pinion a bird's wing the owner must consider:

a) whether a regime of feather clipping would not be equally suitable;

b) whether the bird could be satisfactorily displayed in a large enclosed aviary which supplies the bird with appropriate behavioural enrichment as well as appropriate flying space.

4.2  Pinioning may be performed on the following bird orders:

  • Ciconiiformes (Herons, Ibises, Storks, Flamingos)
  • Anseriformes (Ducks, Swans, Geese, Screamers)
  • Galliformes (Megapodes, Quails, Pheasants, Guineafowl, Guans)
  • Gruiformes (Button-quails, Rails, Cranes, Bustards)

Suitable candidates for pinioning are therefore those adapted primarily to a terrestrial existence, where the majority of time is spent on water or land feeding, resting or breeding.

4.3  Whenever possible it is recommended to pinion birds under three days of age via the wingtip amputation method. At this stage their wing tips are relatively undeveloped and the birds can become accustomed to a flightless lifestyle more easily.

4.4  Pinioning of birds under three days of age via the wingtip amputation method can be performed by either a registered veterinarian or the bird's owner under instruction from a veterinarian. Use of anaesthesia for this method of amputation is not necessary for birds of this age.

Exception:  Any Megapode, no matter the age, must be anaesthetised while being pinioned. Pinioning of Megapodes must only be performed by a registered veterinarian.

4.5  Pinioning of a bird over three days of age via the amputation method must only be performed by a registered veterinarian. The bird must be anaesthetised while being pinioned.

4.6  Pinioning of a bird of any age via the tendonotomy method must only be performed by a registered veterinarian. The bird must be anaesthetised while being pinioned by this method.

4.7  Enclosures used to house pinioned birds must provide adequate predator control through the use of night shelters, security fencing, baiting programs, keeper supervision, etc.

As approved on 7 June 1995 by the Animal Welfare Advisory Council