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Proposed Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines – Exhibited Animals Consultation Regulation Impact Statement March 2014

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1.2. Setting the scene

1.2.1 Overview of the Australian exhibited animals industry

Animal exhibitors include zoos, wildlife or fauna parks, aquariums and museums with live exhibits.

Zoos were originally established in the nineteenth century, following the development of taxonomy (the scientific classification of animals and plants) and European discovery of other continents and their wildlife. Their original purposes were to encourage observation, learning and social recreation; and to satisfy public curiosity regarding newly discovered exotic species.5

A framework of four key objectives of zoos emerged in the 1970s: conservation, education, recreation and research. Public education and recreation is also a main motivation for tourist visitation. Following publication of the first World Conservation Strategy in 1980, the second in 1991, and the international Convention on Biological Diversity, the importance of zoos in maintaining ex situ6 populations of threatened species and in related public education is now explicitly recognised.7

More recently, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), has developed the World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy. [The Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA),8 as the Australasian or regional peak body for this industry, is associated with WAZA]. This strategy defines the roles of zoos as contributing to conservation, research and education, and as places of recreation for the community.

Based on an economic survey conducted for the former Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (now ZAA) in 2009, the total estimated production by Australian zoos is worth about $424 million per annum. This consists of annual operating expenditure of about $358 million and capital expenditure of about $66 million. Zoos in Australia employ about 5300 people, including 3700 full-time employees and 1600 part-time employees. International visitors to zoos may create an estimated net benefit to the Australian economy of about $58 million per annum in addition to their payments for admissions to zoos. Allowing for a multiplier of up to 2.0, this could convert to a total value of about $116 million per annum.9

Wildlife or fauna parks generally specialise in native animals and perform similar roles to zoos. Aquariums specialise in aquatic animals including mammals and birds as well as fish and aquatic invertebrates.

In Australia, animal exhibits generally require some form of government licence (authority). As shown in Table 2 below, it is estimated that there are 211 licensed (authorised) facilities nationally (details are provided in Appendix 1 to this RIS).

Table 2: Estimated number of licensed (authorised) facilities by jurisdiction - 201210











No. Licensed facilities (a)










The 5300 curatorial and maintenance staff are comprised of employees involved in the research, development, promotion and maintenance of scientific collections and exhibits, as well as, zookeepers and park/wildlife officers. The latest census of population and housing statistics from August 2006 notes that there were 483 zookeepers employed by the zoos and botanic gardens industry11 and a further 98 zookeepers employed by the nature reserves and conservation parks industry.12

Summary statistics of exhibited animal numbers are provided in the following tables. Table 3 illustrates the number of animals exhibited by jurisdiction and by taxon based on ZAA membership and associates representing only 56 out of 211 licensed (authorised) facilities.
Table 3: Number of exhibited animals by species, taxon and jurisdiction ZAA members and associates only - by jurisdiction (2011)13






































All species


Source: This table has been compiled from 2011 census data from the Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Diversity Index Table (see

By extrapolation using the NSW figures, the estimated total numbers of exhibited animals covered by the proposed specific taxon standards are shown in Table 4.
Table 4: Estimated number of exhibited animals by taxon standard (ZAA members and non-members) – by State or Territory (2011)14

Taxon standard animal

(No. facilities 2012)

Total NSW


Total Vic (42)

Total QLD (45)

Total SA


Total WA (40)

Total TAS (12)

Total NT


Total ACT


Total Australia




















































Total taxon standard animals










1.2.2 Animal welfare

Animal welfare concerns are becoming increasingly important to industry, government, consumers and the general public, both in Australia and internationally. Practices which may have once been deemed acceptable are now being reassessed in light of new knowledge and changing attitudes.

‘Animal welfare’ is a difficult term to define and has several dimensions including the mental and physical aspects of the animal’s well-being, as well as people’s subjective ethical preferences.15

Barnett and Hemsworth establish that the most credible scientific definition of animal welfare relates to the attempt of an animal to cope with its environment.16 Broom and Johnson add to this definition of animal welfare stating:

[The animal’s] state as regards its attempts to cope with its environment and includes both the extent of failure to cope and the ease or difficulty in coping. Health is an important part of welfare whilst feelings – such as pain, fear and various forms of pleasure – components of the mechanisms for attempting to cope and should be evaluated where possible in welfare assessment.17

Under the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS), Australia has accepted the agreed international definition of animal welfare from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE):

Animal welfare means how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter/killing. Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.18

In accordance with this definition, and with long-established welfare science principles, it is important when dealing with animal welfare to separate factual considerations of welfare from attitudes and moral judgments about what is appropriate (ethics).19

1.2.3 Relevant legislation, standards and guidelines Responsibilities of governments

Animal welfare legislation provides a balance between the competing views in the community about the use of animals. The successful pursuit of many industries involving animals is dependent on community confidence in the regulation of animal welfare.

Under constitutional arrangements, the primary responsibility for animal welfare within Australia rests with individual states and territories, which exercise legislative control through the legislation outlined in Appendix 1 of this RIS.

In, most jurisdictions the keeping of exotic animals and the keeping of native animals are regulated by separate pieces of legislation with objectives that respectively focus on vertebrate pest management and nature conservation.

Exotic animal licensing systems seek to reduce the risk of vertebrate pest establishment by categorizing exotic species according to perceived pest risk and prohibiting or restricting the keeping of higher risk species. Public and commercial exhibitors are often able to keep controlled categories of exotic animal species that private keepers cannot. This is because exhibitors can usually demonstrate a superior level of facility security and keeper experience. There also appears to be an acceptance that the public benefit arising from allowing exhibition of exotic animals is normally greater than any arising from allowing from private keeping of such animals. Standards and licensing conditions for higher risk exotic animals tend to focus on security of enclosures and premises; together with avoiding widespread holding of large populations of such species.

Native animal licensing systems often limit the range of native species that may be kept by private keepers. This is primarily to limit pressure on wild populations. Some jurisdictions have tiered licensing schemes which prevent keepers from keeping some species unless they have held a lower tier licence for a set period. As with exotic animal licensing systems, animal exhibitors are often permitted to keep native species that private keepers cannot ordinarily keep.

The welfare of animals in exhibit facilities is usually addressed via prevention of cruelty to animals legislation, which encourage the considerate treatment of animals as well as preventing cruelty.20 Most jurisdictions have codes of practice under their legislation setting standards and/or guidelines for the welfare of exhibited animals.

New South Wales differs from most other jurisdictions in that it regulates the keeping of both native and exotic animals for exhibit purposes and the welfare of such animals under one piece of legislation, the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986.

Some jurisdictions (NSW, QLD and WA) already have standards dealing with many of the matters covered in the proposed national standards, but with some gaps in standards between jurisdictions. Other jurisdictions (VIC and SA) have codes of practice that are a mixture of standards (‘must’ requirements) and guidelines (‘should’ advisory statements). As such, these codes are not sufficiently clear or verifiable for implementation and enforcement purposes; nor for integration into industry training and quality assurance (QA) programs.

There are no government standards or guidelines at all relating to exhibited animals in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. The Western Australian code is based on the New South Wales standards, which use ‘must’ statements in the standards and ‘should’ statements in notes associated with the standards. South Australia has no separate standards for exhibitors of native animals. The standards which apply to private hobbyist keepers of native animals are applied to exhibitors in that state.
Deficiencies and inconsistencies in government standards and guidelines can restrict government capacity to influence management of exhibited animals to meet community values and expectations (see Part 2.2 of this RIS). For instance, the Cairns Tropical Zoo has written:

The current lack of standards in some jurisdictions affects the operation of business through slowing down approvals for new species/enclosures as neither the industry applicant nor the government regulator knows what is required of them. This leads to a very inconsistent approach to animals welfare and adds considerable costs to both industry and government due to increased time for preparation and assessment of applications. Consistent national standards will assist greatly in dealing with such issues.

Another concern is that a number of the government standards documents do not incorporate some of the advances in the understanding of the factors influencing exhibited animal welfare.

The Australian Government has specific powers in relation to external trade and treaties that encompasses some animal welfare issues. Its legislative responsibility for the live animal import and export trade and animals in quarantine can directly affect animal exhibitors. For instance, the Department of Environment regulates the importing or exporting wildlife for exhibition purposes. Specific conditions apply to the export of koalas, kangaroos, wombats, Tasmanian devils, wallabies and nationally threatened species. These conditions include animal welfare standards dealing with requirements such as health examinations, food supply, transport crates, noise minimisation etc.21

The main method of co-ordinating animal welfare issues amongst state and territory governments to date has been through the development of national model codes of practice in consultation with industry and other stakeholders, for endorsement by the former Primary Industries Ministerial Council (PIMC), and the former Standing Council on Primary Industries (SCoPI). The model codes have been used as a guide by the various state and territory governments in the development of their own legislation and codes of practice. These model codes of practice are progressively being converted into national mandatory standards. As these model codes or standards are developed primarily in recognition of government purposes, they are distinct from the various wholly voluntary codes of practice and quality assurance programs that may be developed from time to time by industry associations.

The model codes of practice developed to date have focused on livestock species primarily - no national model code of practice has been developed specifically for exhibited animals.

Local governments have responsibility for some areas of domestic and unwanted animal control that can have a significant impact on the welfare of these animals. This includes the provision of feedback to state/territory governments in order to change legislation and for the promotion and maintenance of responsible animal ownership.22 Australian Animal Welfare Strategy

In 2006, the former SCoPI asked the former Primary Industries Standing Committee (PIMC) to develop a nationally consistent approach to the development, implementation and enforcement of Australian animal welfare standards.

The Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) endorsed in May 2004 by PIMC outlined directions for future improvements in the welfare of animals and to provide national and international communities with an appreciation of animal welfare arrangements in Australia. As part of the AAWS, enhanced national consistency in regulation and sustainable improvements in animal welfare based on science, national and international benchmarks and changing community standards were identified as areas of priority effort. Work is now underway to update the Model Codes of Practice and convert them into Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. The new documents will incorporate both national welfare standards and industry guidelines for each species or enterprise. In an effort to comprehensively cover all animal management sectors, new standards and guidelines are also being created where Model Codes of Practice did not exist, such as for exhibited animals.23
The aim of the AAWS was to assist in the creation of a more consistent and effective animal welfare system in Australia. The AAWS, through its participants and projects helped to clarify the roles and responsibilities of key community, industry and government organisations. The animal welfare system in Australia aims to ensure all animals receive a standard minimum level of care and treatment. The level of care requires that all animals be provided with adequate housing or habitat, handling, sanitation, nutrition, water, veterinary care, and protection from extreme weather conditions and other forms of natural disasters. Role of standards and guidelines

For the purposes of this RIS, and especially the cost/benefit assessment in Part 4.0 of the RIS,24 it is important to clearly distinguish between standards and guidelines. These terms are defined in the proposed national standards document as follows:

Standards – the acceptable animal welfare and security requirements designated in this document. They are requirements that must be met under law with respect to animals kept for exhibition purposes.

The standards are intended to be clear, essential and verifiable statements. However, not all issues are able to be well defined by scientific research or are able to be quantified. Standards use the word ‘must’. Non-compliance with one or more standards would constitute an offence under law.

Guidelines - complement the standards by providing advice and/or recommendations to achieve desirable animal welfare and security outcomes. Non-compliance with guidelines would not constitute an offence under law.

In contrast, the terms ‘best practice’ or ‘better practice’ are not used in the proposed standards document. These are concepts used by industry for business benchmarking purposes, rather than as an enforceable standard or a recommended guideline. ‘Best practice’ is defined in Oxford Dictionaries Online as ‘commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective’. Industry initiatives and guidelines

The Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA)25 is the peak body representing the zoo and aquarium community throughout Australasia. The Association has 87 member organisations; 81 of these are zoos, aquariums and museums with the remainder consisting of universities, TAFEs and government departments.

The Association manages the coordination of breeding programs and sets the level of professional standards and practice for its members, including an accreditation program. It also provides general support and advice where required to its members and governments on a range of issues such as biosecurity, wildlife disease and species knowledge.26
The position of the Association is that zoos and aquariums have a responsibility to ensure a high standard of animal welfare for all animals in their care. The Association maintains that the conservation, education, research and recreational goals of zoological organisations must be underpinned by positive animal welfare. Australasian zoos and aquariums maintain a unique and diverse collection of non-domestic species. The Association recognises the benefits of an industry specific approach to animal welfare; and has adopted the Five Domains model,27 which recognises the affective (psychological) states of welfare in animals.28
The Five Welfare Domains and examples of related positive states29 are:
Physical Domains:

  1. Nutrition: e.g. appropriate consumption of nutritious foods is a pleasurable experience

  2. Environmental: e.g. benign conditions offer adaptive choices and variety

  3. Health: e.g. physically sound (uninjured, disease-free) animals enjoy good health

  4. Behaviour: e.g. environment-focused and inter-animal activities are satisfying and engaging

Mental Domain:

  1. Mental or Affective State: e.g. animals experience comfort, pleasure, interest and confidence

The professional standards activities of the Association encompass a membership program, an accreditation program, and the National Zoo Biosecurity Manual.30 This manual was developed as a cooperative initiative between the Association, the Australian Wildlife Health Network and the Australian government to document better practice biosecurity measures currently being adopted by the zoo industry. Member zoos and aquariums are encouraged to use the guidelines and information in the Manual to develop and maintain an appropriate level of biosecurity management for their institution.
The Association is also involved in partnership projects, such as the implementation of the AAWS (see Part of this RIS), an animal welfare online training program and the development of the proposed standards and guidelines for exhibited animals.31
Other relevant industry associations include the NSW Fauna and Marine Parks Association representing fauna and marine parks in New South Wales. This Association has a long history of collaborating with the NSW government in the development of prescribed standards under the Exhibited Animals Protection Act, in rehoming animals from fauna parks that close, and in the development of industry-relevant training via the TAFE system.
It appears that there are no state-based industry associations for animal exhibitors in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. This means that approximately half of all animal exhibition facilities are not members of an animal exhibition industry association. Relevant international standards

Internationally, there has been an increasing trend to introduce legislation that recognises the important role that zoos play in the area of conservation and to provide for mandatory minimum standards for the care and management of exhibited animals. However, there are no World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) or other global standards as yet dealing with the welfare of exhibited animals.

The European Community Zoos Directive (Directive 1999/22/EC) requires European Union Member States to regulate zoos in accordance with its provisions. The Directive is transposed into the legislation of each member state. In England, the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice (England) (last updated September 2004)32 has been referred to by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) as the ‘world-class standard’ and considered as a benchmark for its own regulatory regime.33
The European Union (EU) has recognised that not only must animals be kept under appropriate conditions, but also that the animals kept in zoos are part of environmental heritage and natural resources. It was on this basis that EU member states adopted common minimum standards for the housing and care of animals in zoos, and reinforced the role of zoos in preserving biodiversity.

The European Council’s Zoos Directive (Council Directive 1999/22/EC) required each member state to enact legislation that complies with the directive, which provided a common basis for the regulation of zoos in the areas of licensing and inspections, the keeping of animals, staff training and public education. A significant obligation from the European Council’s Zoos Directive is that there must be a strategy approved by the licensing authority for the welfare or disposal of animals following the closure of a zoo. However, Australian state and territory governments would be likely to regard such matters as their responsibility without the need for explicit standards.

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