Minimum Standards

New Zealand has a high international reputation for animal welfare. Because so much of New Zealand's economy is dependent on animals, Codes of Welfare have been established to keep its standards consistently high.


A Code of Welfare is issued by the Minister for Primary Industries (under the Animal Welfare Act 1999). The Codes are important to help establish best practice – ensuring high standards of animal care and outlining minimum standards for the care and handling of animals.

The minimum standards have legal effect in two possible ways:

  • Evidence of a failure to meet a relevant minimum standard may be used to support a prosecution for an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 1999

  • A person who is charged with an offence against the Act can defend him/herself by showing that he/she has equalled or exceeded minimum standards.

Included in the Codes of Welfare are recommended best practices, to encourage everyone not just to achieve the minimum standards, but to aim to improve the welfare of their animals by adopting best practice.


The Ministry for Primary Industries has put together 16 Codes of Welfare that include minimum standards, guidance information and recommended best practice for animal welfare. These Codes expand on the general obligations in the Animal Welfare Act 1999, which require all people who own or are in charge of animals to meet their animals’ physical, health and behavioural needs.

There are Codes of Welfare covering many animals, from dogs to dairy cattle, and include situations such as animal rodeos and painful husbandry procedures. You can find the full list (with amendments) on the Ministry for Primary Industries website


The Five Freedoms are a set of internationally-recognised animal welfare standards on which the Codes of Welfare are based. They outline what we, as animal owners and carers, must provide. The Five Freedoms are: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress. Learn more about the Five Freedoms here.


If you believe the minimum standard of care in any of these Codes is being breached by an individual or an organisation and you wish to make a complaint, please call us on (04) 389 8044 or the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 00 83 33.


The SPCA’s annual List of Shame highlights the reality of animal cruelty in Aotearoa New Zealand and clearly demonstrates why the SPCA is such an important charity. To think of New Zealand without the SPCA and its Inspectors is a scary thought as there would be no-one to help the 49,000 animals who came through our doors needing help over the past 12 months.

Click here to read the full SPCA New Zealand 2015 List of Shame.