Livestock injured in transport accidents


The following information advises stock transporters on how to deal with stock injured in transport vehicle accidents. Leaving seriously injured animals to suffer on the side of the road, or reloading them for a long and painful journey to the abattoir, is not only cruel - it is against the law.

Help available

People who can help include:

  • Police*;
  • District Emergency Management representatives, including State Emergency Services;
  • RSPCA* and Animal Welfare League officers*;
  • Veterinarians* (government or private);
  • NSW Department of Primary Industry stock inspectors;
  • Local Land Services rangers;
  • Local pound-keepers;
  • General manager or head stockperson at a local abattoir.

* Those marked with an asterisk have powers under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to order, even without the owner’s permission, the destruction of animals which are suffering.

What to do

Step 1

Contact the police. They will take charge of the accident scene and coordinate rescue efforts. The release of trapped animals should only begin when injured people have been taken away from the accident scene. Onlookers must be kept well out of the way.

Step 2

Assess the condition of all animals and note those animals that, on humane grounds, should be destroyed immediately. Consideration should be given to notifying owners of stud or registered livestock before destruction, if possible, so that steps may be taken to obtain genetic material. However, the animals’ welfare must remain the overriding consideration.

Step 3

An experienced person should destroy severely injured animals, preferably without moving them from where they rest. Winching or dragging conscious animals off trucks is unacceptable.

Step 4

Muster stray animals, keeping in mind the following:

  • Animals that have been in an accident are distressed and may charge.
  • The local pound-keeper normally has a vehicle that can carry horses and working dogs, both necessary for the mustering of stock.
  • When mustered, injured animals must be assessed and dealt with appropriately.
  • All animals should be accounted for by referring to the number on the transported stock statement.
  • Missing stock must be searched for.
  • Stock may be transferred to the nearest stock reserve and the Local Land Services ranger contacted. Nearby property owners may offer facilities for holding and loading stock. Always seek permission from adjoining property owners before transferring stock to their holdings, and care should be taken not to introduce diseased stock.
  • Animals which are uninjured should be rested for at least 24 hours before being moved to their destination.

How to assess injuries

Animals that cannot stand steadily on all four feet should not be considered for further transport. This includes:

  • 'downers';
  • animals with broken limbs even if they are still able to stand;
  • those animals with injuries which prevent them from walking up a loading ramp or travelling without distress or discomfort.

Ensure there is as little delay as possible in destroying animals which are judged to be in extreme pain and beyond recovery. If in doubt about the seriousness of injuries, seek the advice of a veterinarian.

As most stock are insured for transport, attempts to salvage injured animals may not only be inhumane but also be financially unrewarding. An insurance company will ask the police for details of the number of stock killed in the accident and the number destroyed at the scene of the accident. The insurance company will usually only pay for these animals and not for those that die or are destroyed later.

Stud stock are not insured under the Land Transit Policy, which is the transit policy held by most livestock transporters. Owners of stud stock must take out their own insurance and, in the event of an accident, have both the police and a veterinarian make a positive identification of the animal and issue a death certificate.

For information on humane methods of destroying animals, see Humane destruction of stock (Primefact).

Animal protection laws

Animal transport drivers must remember that it is against the law to carry animals which are injured and suffering. Breaking this law may result in a fine of over $5,000, or 6 months’ imprisonment, or both.

Transport drivers must also keep a record of journey details, the number and description of animals loaded, and any animals that are killed or injured in transit. The police or RSPCA officers may ask drivers for this information at any time - failure to provide it may result in a fine of over $2,000.