Issue 51 - Stock Welfare Panels
Stock Welfare Panels are established under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, at the request of an enforcement agency, usually RSPCA, to respond to stock animal welfare cases. The Panel process involves assessing and reporting on the welfare of the stock. An official warning can be issued to the owner giving directions for the care of the stock and if these are not complied with and the stock remain at risk, an order can be issued to seize and dispose of the stock.
A Stock Welfare Panel is made up of an RSPCA NSW Inspector, an officer of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) with expertise in animal welfare or livestock management, a representative from the NSW Farmers’ association and a representative from Local Land Services (LLS), who in most cases is a District Veterinarian. The legislation requires that at least one member of the Panel is a veterinarian.
Stock Welfare Panels are not automatic, in most cases the RSPCA and LLS District Veterinarians are able to work successfully with stock owners to improve the animal welfare situation. Despite the severe drought ongoing conditions that much of NSW has been experiencing, the relatively low number of Panels indicates that most stock owners are making the right decisions.
In 2017/18 and 2018/19 there have been 23 Stock Welfare Panels which have improved the welfare situation for over 15,000 head of stock (6615 cattle, 8228 sheep, 184 horses). There are currently 10 active Panels in operation. Generally, in 1/3 of Panels the stock owner will comply with the Panel’s recommendations and address the welfare situation relatively quickly, in 1/3 the stock owner will partially comply and the welfare issues will be adequately dealt with over a slightly longer period and 1/3 will not comply and result in stock being seized.
As drought conditions continue the Panels will remain an important tool in addressing stock animal welfare situations.