COVID-19: Animal movements and care


Last updated: 21 May 2020 2:20pm

DPI has received several requests from animal owners to clarify whether or not certain animal transport is considered a reasonable excuse to leave home under the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 2) 2020 (the order).

Under the order, a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave home.

The order provides examples of reasonable excuses including:

  • travelling for the purposes of work if the person cannot work from the person’s place of residence; and
  • undertaking any legal obligations
  • exercise

Note ‘work’ includes work undertaken as a volunteer or for a charitable organisation, such as for an animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation group.

Animal Health Australia has a variety of information available to assist animal owners deal with COVID-19.

The Federal Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has information on COVID-19 and domestic animals and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment has information about COVID-19 and wildlife rescue.

What are my legal obligations?

In NSW animal owners and carers have an obligation under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA) to provide food, water, shelter and veterinary care to their animals. In addition the owners of some animals must meet prescribed standards of care under POCTA, the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986 and the Animal Research Act 1985.

Am I allowed to leave home to go horse-riding or to walk my dog?

The NSW Government has issued guidelines allowing people to go outside and exercise.

Undertaking exercise, including riding a horse or walking a dog, is a reasonable excuse to leave home.

Any form of exercise is to be undertaken in compliance with the Public Health Orders, meaning that people must not participate in groups greater than 10 persons in a public place. All government restrictions, social distancing and hygiene measures must be followed.

You can enjoy daily exercise, walk or ride animals and spend time among nature, but it’s important to follow current health orders and stay in your local area when you do go out.

Further information on using public spaces by visiting the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment webpage.

Am I allowed to leave home to transport my horse, dog, cat or other companion animal?

You may leave home to transport a horse, dog, cat or other companion animal:

  • to meet your legal obligations to care for an animal and ensure its welfare,
  • for your exercise, provided you stay in your local area,
  • to sell or transfer physical ownership of an animal,
  • to or from a livestock auction (applies only to ‘livestock’ animals - see Livestock Auctions below),
  • to relinquish your animal to a shelter or pound.

Reasons for leaving home to care for an animal and ensure its welfare includes:

  • to obtain veterinary treatment for your pet,
  • to return your pet to its original location after obtaining the treatment referred to above,
  • to relocate your pet that cannot be provided with adequate feed, shelter or care to a place where these can be provided,
  • to surrender your pet to an animal welfare organisation, licensed fauna rehabilitation group or pound,
  • to transfer ownership of pet animals,
  • to transport livestock animals to or from a livestock auction.

What conditions are there on travel for the sale or physical transfer of horses?

If you are transporting a horse to sell or transfer physical ownership you MUST adhere to the following conditions:

  • Only the driver of the vehicle is permitted to travel to transport the animal.
  • The driver of the vehicle must carry documentation with them outlining the location of where the animal is ordinarily kept, the address of the intended destination.
  • In the case of ownership transfer, a driver must also carry documentation for proof of sale (e.g. sale receipt). This only applies where the sale has been completed prior to transport. It is not applicable to the situation of an animal being transported to an auction or, in the event that the animal is nor sold at auction, being returned to its place of origin.
  • Horses must be accompanied with a Transported Stock Statement where applicable.
  • Horses must be transported directly to the intended destination.
  • Practice good biosecurity - e.g. wash down vehicles and floats.

What conditions are there on travel for the sale or physical transfer of dogs, cats and other pets?

If you are transporting a puppy, kitten, dog, cat or other pet to sell or transfer physical ownership you MUST adhere to the following conditions:

  • Only the driver of the vehicle is permitted to travel to transport the animal.
  • The driver of the vehicle must carry documentation with them outlining the location of where the animal is ordinarily kept, the address of the intended destination.
  • In the case of ownership transfer, a driver must also carry documentation for proof of sale (e.g. sale receipt). This only applies where the sale has been completed prior to transport. It is not applicable to the situation of an animal being transported to an auction or, in the event that the animal is nor sold at auction, being returned to its place of origin.
  • Where a pet livestock animal is being transported to a livestock auction, the driver must carry documentation showing that the auction house has agreed to auction the animal.
  • If you are selling or giving away a cat or dog, it must be microchipped. Visit our webpage for more information on selling cats and dogs in NSW.
  • Animals must be transported directly to the intended destination.
  • You must practice good biosecurity e.g wash down vehicles and transport containers

In any case, if you are in quarantine for coronavirus you must follow the direction of health authorities and stay at home.

Animal facilities can continue to operate if they treat or care for sick animals or rescue abandoned or injured animals.

You should maintain appropriate physical distancing and sanitisation measures.

Livestock auctions

  • Auction houses can only be open to the public for the purpose of conducting an auction for food supply, livestock, fibre or crops or real estate.
  • The 4 square metre rule and physical distancing applies and the number of persons allowed on premises is restricted to 100 people indoors or 500 people outdoors.
  • Livestock includes:

    a) cattle, pigs, goats and sheep,
    b) camelids, deer or equines (including horses, donkeys, asses, mules and zebras),
    c) small poultry (being chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, ducks, geese, quails, pigeons, pheasants or partridges),
    d) large poultry (being emus or ostriches).

Animal welfare obligations for food processing plants and manufacturing businesses

In response to industry discussions surrounding meat processing plants, SafeWork NSW, NSW Health and DPI have developed an Animal Welfare and Business Continuity Self-Assessment (PDF, 292.03 KB). This checklist has been prepared in conjunction with the Workplace Health Management Plan Template (PDF, 505.55 KB) to assist food processing plants and manufacturing businesses prepare for and manage the impacts of a disruption on the business and its processing operations.

The Animal Welfare and Business Continuity Self-Assessment (PDF, 292.03 KB) has been developed to assist food processing plants and manufacturing businesses to implement adequate planning and risk mitigation measures to ensure that the welfare of the animals for which they are responsible is not jeopardised in the event of a disruption to the business and its processing operations.

Can I infect the animals I care for, or be infected by them?

The current spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission.

A very small number of cases involving spill-over to animals, from people infected with COVID-19, have been reported. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) advises that currently there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected with SARS CoV-2 from humans play a role in the transmission of the virus.

Recent research suggests cats and ferrets are more susceptible to infection. However, to date, there is no evidence that animals have contributed to the spread of the disease, and therefore there is no justification in taking measures against animals which may compromise their welfare.

For current advice concerning managing the risks associated with animals in mass care or group settings, such as animal shelters, boarding facilities, zoos, and research facilities, where their exposure history to people with COVID-19 is unknown, read Animals in Mass Care & Group Settings Advice Summary (PDF, 709.83 KB).

When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.

More information can be found by visiting the OIE website.

Will food for my animals remain available?

No jurisdiction has expressed an intention to restrict the movement of essential goods and services.

Agriculture and related industries are classified as essential industries and access to feed, fodder and transport will be maintained.

Supermarkets are classified as essential services and will continue to stock companion animal feeds even in the event of tighter restrictions.

Our animals rely on us. Remember it is your responsibility to protect the welfare of animals in your care at all times.

If you own or care for animals, it is important to plan ahead and consider a range of factors that will reduce the risk of animal welfare issues that may occur during a human health pandemic.

Can I travel to tend my bees?

Food production and supply is an essential service.

Any person who operates or is employed by a beekeeping business has a reasonable excuse to leave their home for the purpose of work.

All beekeepers in NSW have a legal obligation to maintain their hives in a biosecure manner at all times and you might need to travel to fulfil this legal obligation and manage your hives.

This could include but is not limited to carrying out brood inspections, feeding, requeening and other beekeeping activities that are required to ensure hives remain healthy and free from serious diseases like American foulbrood.

We recommend you carry a copy of your current DPI issued certificate of beekeeper registration when travelling in case you are questioned while on the road. You may also wish to print this advice and carry a copy with you. You can obtain a copy of your certificate of beekeeper registration by emailing bfs.admin@dpi.nsw.gov.au.