NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No 1 - Companion animal transport agencies


This code is designed for everyone involved in the business of companion animal transportation (pet transport services). By adhering to the code, people involved in this industry are demonstrating to the general community their concern for the welfare of the animals in their care.

Animal welfare can be thought of as the way an animal's health and well-being are affected by its interaction with its physical and social environments. Since humans can alter or control an animal's environment, animal welfare means that people have duties and responsibilities towards animals. The greater the level of interference with, or control of, an animal's environment, the greater our responsibilities.

This code is neither a complete manual on animal husbandry, nor a static document. It may be revised to take account of advances in the understanding of animal physiology and behaviour, technological changes, changing industry standards, and the community's attitudes and expectations about the welfare of animals.

Compliance with the code does not remove the need to abide by the requirements of any other laws and regulations such as local government or National Parks and Wildlife Service legislation.

The code has been prepared in consultation with operators in this industry, and is endorsed by the NSW Animal Welfare Advisory Council

1. Introduction

1.1    This code sets standards for the care and management of animals by companion animal transport agencies.

1.2    It applies to the welfare of dogs, cats and other companion animals while they are the responsibility of a transport agency; that is from the time of collection, during holding and including any overnight stays, in transit and until delivery at the final destination or point of embarkation.

2. Responsibilities of the manager

2.1 The manager of a companion animal transport agency is responsible for:

2.1.1    The provision of holding facilities which suit the physical and behavioural requirements of the animals.

2.1.2    The protection of the animals from people, other animals and adverse environmental conditions.

2.1.3    The provision of sufficient space for animals to rest, stand, stretch fully and turn around.

2.1.4    The provision of sufficient quantities of suitable feed and water at appropriate intervals.

2.1.5    The provision of prompt veterinary and other appropriate treatment in cases of illness or injury.

2.1.6    Maintenance of the hygiene of holding pens, vehicles and equipment.

2.1.7    The supervision of feeding, watering and inspection of animals to ensure their well-being.

2.1.8    The supervision of all staff.

2.1.9    The collation and maintenance of appropriate records.

3. Transport

3.1 Containers

3.1.1    Containers for transport must be small enough to avoid self-induced trauma, but should be spacious enough for the animals to turn around.

3.1.2    All animals should be confined in transit to ensure their security.

3.1.3    Containers must be able to be readily cleaned and disinfected.

3.1.4    Each individual container must be fitted with a secure closing device that cannot be opened by the animal(s) held.

3.1.5    IATA guidelines apply to air travel.

3.1.6    Containers should be strong enough to withstand stacking and general handling and constructed to provide adequate ventilation and light.

3.1.7    The interior walls of containers must be smooth, flat, and not subject to splintering.

3.2 Temperature

3.2.1    Animals must be protected from extremes of temperature, and the environmental temperature should be controlled to minimise distress to animals.

3.2.2    Very old and very young animals which are more sensitive than others to changes in temperature may require provision of heating or cooling.

3.3 Noise

Loud or sudden noise which may distress animals should be avoided.

3.4 Ventilation

Ventilation must be sufficient to avoid dampness and draughts, and minimise noxious odours.

4. Hygiene

4.1    Containers must be kept clean and dry to assist with disease prevention and to ensure the well-being of the animals.

4.2    All containers should be treated with appropriate disinfectants as necessary.

4.3   Cleaning and disinfection chemicals and materials should be chosen on the basis of their suitability, safety and effectiveness. They must only be used in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions. Some common disinfectants, particularly those derived from or containing coal or wood tar products are toxic to cats. Pine oil, phenol, cresol and chloroxylenols are such products, and must be avoided.

4.4    Faeces, urine and vomit must be removed promptly.

4.5    Waste disposal must be carried out promptly and hygienically, and in accordance with the requirements of the local government authority.

5. Management

5.1 Care of animals

5.1.1    Animals should be transported in the shortest practicable time.

5.1.2    Food and water must be provided during long periods of transport. Food must be provided at least once every 24 hours and water at least once every 6 hours. Animals less then 6 months old must not be left more then 12 hours without food.

5.1.3    The transport agency and consignee should confirm the departure and arrival time of animals with the carrier. In the event of delays or cancellations it is the responsibility of the carrier to ensure the welfare of the animals in transit.

5.1.4    Containers in which animals are transported must be clearly labelled with the time and date of departure, name and address of the agency and consignee, and telephone numbers for contacting them (including contact numbers out-of-hours).

5.1.5    All travelling crates must clearly identify the contents.

5.1.6    All reasonable special requirements requested by the animal's owner or attending veterinary surgeon, such as administration of medication and feeding of special diets, should be attended to.

5.1.7    Arrangements to supply special requirements to an animal should be made, where possible, before collection to ensure that such requirements can be met.

5.1.8    Choke chains or leads, which are likely to become entangled and endanger animals, should be removed for transport.

5.1.9    Containers must not have any unsecured objects in them while an animal is being transported. Injury to an animal can result from the movement of unsecured objects due to sudden movements of the container. Objects that may cause injury include feed bowls, medications, collars and leads. Soft toys may be placed within the container.

5.1.10 When supplying food and water during transport, if dishes cannot be secured, then direct supervision of the animal is necessary. Unsecured dishes should be removed as soon as the animal has been fed. Water dishes must be secured on long trips.

5.1.11 Cats should not be transported in the same containers as dogs, even when they come from the same household.

5.1.12 Animals should preferably be transported in separate containers except in the case of compatible animals of the same species from the same household.

5.1.13 Animals, which should always be transported in separate containers, include:

  • animals in season
  • females with young
  • very aggressive or noisy animals
  • obviously pregnant animals

5.1.14 Old or frail animals should normally be housed singly.

5.2 Record keeping

The following information must be recorded relating to each animal transported:

  • the animal's name
  • name, address and telephone number of the owner or the owner' nominee
  • contact telephone number and address of the owner (if different to the above) or the owner's nominee
  • a description of the animal, including:
    -    sex
    -    breed or type
    -    colour
    -    age
    -    distinguishing features
    -    date and time of collection
    -    details of medical and dietary requirements
    -    any collars, leads or belongings collected with the animal
    -    vaccination status
    -    for dogs, heartworm infection status, if known
    -    name and contact telephone number of the veterinarian who
    normally attends the animal
    -    carrier details

5.3 Staff

5.3.1    All staff should be aware of their responsibilities toward animals and be competent to carry these out.

5.3.2    Members of staff should be knowledgeable and experienced in the care and handling of dogs and cats. Formal training, such as a technical college qualification in animal care, is encouraged.

5.3.3    Staff should preferably be chosen on the basis of their attitude and demonstrated compassion towards animals.

6. Health care

6.1 Disease Prevention

6.1.1    For dogs over 8 weeks of age, current vaccination against distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus is required. A current vaccination certificate (certifying that vaccination was done within the preceding 12 months) should be sighted.

6.1.2    For cats over 8 weeks, vaccination against feline infectious enteritis and feline respiratory disease is required. A current vaccination certificate (certifying that vaccination was done within the preceding 12 months) should be sighted.

6.1.3    The owner or owner's nominee should be informed of the vaccination requirements for the animal when initial arrangements are made.

6.1.4    Animals known or suspected to be suffering from an infectious disease should not be accepted for transport except under veterinary advice.

6.2 Health Checks

6.2.1    Each animal must be checked on collection and in transit to monitor its health and well-being.

6.2.2    The person checking animals should note if each animal is:

  • eating
  • drinking
  • defecating
  • urinating
  • behaving normally
  • showing any obvious signs of illness or distress
  • able to move about freely.

6.2.3    A transport agency may refuse to transport an animal where it considers the animal:

  • is showing signs of ill-health
  • has an unsuitable temperament for safe transport
  • has special requirements which cannot be met by the agency

6.2.4    Any changes in health status should be noted and veterinary attention sought promptly for any animal developing one or more of the following signs during holding or while in transit:

  • runny nose
  • runny or inflamed eyes
  • repeated sneezing
  • coughing
  • vomiting
  • severe diarrhea, especially if bloodstained
  • lameness
  • inability to stand or walk
  • bleeding or swelling of body parts (other than the vulva of females on heat)
  • weight loss
  • no appetite
  • extreme lassitude
  • apparent pain
  • fits or staggering
  • bloating of the abdomen
  • inability to urinate or defecate

6.2.5    Where there is any doubt about an animal's fitness to travel it should not be transported and veterinary attention should be sought as soon as possible.

6.3 Tranquillisation

6.3.1    If the tranquillisation of an animal is considered necessary it should be administered only on the advice of a veterinary surgeon.

6.3.    Permission should be obtained from the animal's owner or nominee, preferably in writing, before an animal is tranquillised.

6.3.3    Efforts to assess an animal's temperament by observation and questioning the owner should be made before transport to determine whether tranquillisation is likely to be necessary.

6.4 Euthanasia

6.4.1    Humane destruction (euthanasia) should be considered where an animal becomes seriously ill or injured in transit and where it is recommended by a veterinarian who has examined it.

6.4.2    Permission should be obtained from the animal's owner or nominee, preferably in writing, before euthanasia is performed.

6.4.3    Euthanasia should only be performed by a veterinarian.

7. Vehicles

7.1    Any vehicle especially designed or regularly used for transporting animals must:

  • protect animals from injury
  • have non-slip floors
  • provide easy access and operator safety
  • protect against extremes of temperature
  • protect against excessive vibration
  • have appropriate ventilation to keep the vehicle free of noxious odours and draughts
  • protect against unauthorised release of animals
  • be easy to clean and disinfect
  • be supplied with clean, secure cages or carry baskets for cats or very small dogs, and with separate compartments or
  • partitions for larger dogs

7.2    Animals must not be kept in parked vehicles in the sun or in hot weather unless adequate ventilation and shade is provided.

8. Overnight stays

Where it is necessary for an agency to arrange for an animal to be held overnight, for longer than 24 hours, accommodation and care provided must meet the standards set out in the publication in this series entitled "The Care and Management of Dogs and Cats in Animal Boarding Establishments".

Originally published in October, 1996, by NSW Agriculture