Certification of fitness for transport of livestock
To assist veterinarians to comply with the requirements for certifying animals for transport.
- A veterinary certification of fitness for transport is a key component in protecting the welfare of diseased or defective animals.
- Veterinary certification is discretionary and requires a veterinarian to make a professional judgement.
- Animals should only be transported when the veterinarian is confident that their condition can be appropriately managed, it will not deteriorate further, and that the welfare of the animal will not be compromised further.
- The transportation of animals is regulated by:
- Veterinarians must know and comply with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, its regulations, relevant Codes of Welfare and the Code of Professional Conduct
- Animals must not be transported in a manner which causes ‘unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress’.
- Animals must not be transported if they display any injuries, signs of disease, abnormal behaviour or physical abnormalities that could compromise their welfare during the journey unless a veterinary declaration of fitness for transport has been completed.
- Transportation of an animal with specific conditions (as defined by Regulations ) is allowed if the animal is accompanied by a veterinary certificate that:
- states the animal is fit for transport; or
- specifies conditions that must be complied with to manage the risks associated with transport; and the owner or person in charge of the animal complies with all relevant conditions.
- Veterinarians should support owners and persons in charge (PIC) of animals to comply with the regulations to transport animals.
Systems & procedures
NZVA’s Transportation of livestock policy 2018 (members only) is a best practice approach and should inform veterinarians decisions.
VCNZ endorse the use of the NZVA Fitness of livestock for transport veterinary declaration (as at 1 February 2019).
A useful starting point should be that an animal with a disease or defect is not suitable for transport unless the veterinarian is reasonably confident that the condition can be suitably managed, and the welfare of the animal will not be further compromised.
Preparing for certification
Veterinarians should have available all the necessary information to enable them to make a decision. Information likely to be helpful in preparing to make a decision includes:
- advance notice that the visit is for a transport certificate
- notice of anticipated transport dates and timeframes
- preferred slaughter premises (if applicable)
- clinical history of the animal
- suitability of the facilities available for the examination
- a copy of an existing certificate
- details of any treatment given (including drug withholding periods).
At the time of certification
Certification is a discretionary exercise of professional judgement. When signing a certificate, veterinarians MUST:
- exercise their professional judgement when considering the welfare of the animal/s in question and the most appropriate approach to managing them and to determine whether:
- they are appropriate to transport
- they should be certified
- be confident that the condition of the animal will not deteriorate, and the welfare of the animal will not be further compromised
- examine the animal at the time of certification
- consider the distance and time of travel (this may impact the welfare during transport and arrival condition)
- consider the option of priority slaughter on arrival at the slaughter premises
- complete the certificate in full
- note location of the slaughter premises on the certificate
- maintain a complete record (this may include photos or video footage).
The veterinarian’s clinical record of certification must meet the following minimum standards:
- have a clinical history
- note consultation and examination details at the time of certification and date
- note animal identification
- set out the decision-making process and supporting evidence which may include a differential diagnosis
- detail the communications and instructions given to the owner and/or PIC
- include a copy of the fully completed certificate (including a stipulated expiry date).
Veterinarians SHOULD ensure, and document, that they confirm:
- the time and distance travelled is as short as possible
- the animal will go directly to the nearest appropriate slaughter premise.
When this is not possible, the MPI Verification Services veterinarian of the premises the animal is being transported to SHOULD be notified of the prior to transport
Seeking veterinary advice or second opinion
If the decision to certify an animal is ambiguous, consideration should be given to seeking a second opinion and/or more information on a case by case basis.
Options for advice or second opinions include:
- Another colleague from the same or neighbouring practices
- MPI Verification Services veterinarian at the slaughter plant (if transport is to slaughter).
Declining to sign a certificate
A veterinarian has discretion to decline to sign a certificate.
If veterinarians, in their professional judgement, believe that the owners and/or persons in charge of the animal/s are not suitably experienced or trained to recognise early signs of distress, injury, ill-health, or deterioration of the animal’s condition, or know how to respond effectively, they should decline to certify the animal.
If a veterinarian declines to sign a certificate it is helpful to document reasons and ensure these are explained to the owner or PIC. The client and animal records should also be updated to include the decision reached and communication that occurred with the owner or PIC.
Where an animal is deemed unfit for transport, the veterinarian must immediately ensure the animal receives treatment that alleviates any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress being suffered. This could include humane slaughter on that property as soon as practical. Appropriate treatment/management should be documented in the clinical notes.
Communication with owners and PICs
Veterinarians have a responsibility to communicate with the owners and PICs of animals that are being transported to ensure they are aware that:
- transport is stressful for livestock
- if the health of an animal is already compromised prior to transport, the process of transportation may exacerbate the condition
- there are requirements and conditions of the certificate that must be met
- they must hold a copy of the certificate
- certified animals should not noticeably deteriorate before transport and should be capable of travelling such that they arrive at their destination in a state similar to that when they were examined for certification and that:
- An owner or person in charge of the animal/s must seek veterinary re-examination if the animal’s condition deteriorates from examination to loading date (per the agreement on the signed declaration)
- Additional travel conditions may be stipulated on the certificate that must be complied with.
Veterinarians should ensure that they do not contribute to practices that would breach the Animal Welfare Act. Consideration should be given to whether the animal received adequate and reasonable treatment and attention on that farm for the condition. For example, if the veterinarian becomes aware that an animal with a healed fracture suffered a welfare compromise through non-treatment at the time of the injury, then this should be reported to the MPI Compliance.
Failing to treat injuries such as this is unacceptable and contravenes the Animal Welfare Act 1999, if the owner or person in charge has not provided appropriate treatment for the animal to manage pain and distress. The expectation to treat an injury is an obligation under the Act (s11 – obligation to alleviate pain or distress of ill or injured animals). If a veterinarian discerns there was sufficient evidence that the animal was not treated, they should contact MPI.
MPI advice is that a veterinary certificate can still be provided in cases where an animal that did not receive appropriate treatment to manage pain and distress is now able to bear weight evenly on four limbs and withstand transport (i.e. it would be fit for transport).
Guidance for veterinary employers
Preventing further compromise to the welfare of diseased and defective animals intended for transport requires experience, training and adherence to high standards.
Veterinarians, recent graduates and new staff in particular require appropriate induction and should receive suitable education and ongoing continuing professional development on the topic of transport certification.
Veterinarians, recent graduates and new staff in particular should be suitably supported when undertaking certification for transport assessments.
The appropriate tools and resources should be made available for easy compliance with the expectations outlined in the Regulations, the Code of Professional Conduct, the NZVA guidelines and this statement.
Veterinarians conducting certification for transport assessments should be made aware of the expectations set out in this statement by their employer and they should not accept this task if they feel that they have not been sufficiently trained and/or supported.
- Code of Professional Conduct
- Animal welfare section
- NZVA’s Transportation of livestock policy and guideline December 2018
Acceptable, suitable or right for a particular situation or occasion
Minimum standards that all veterinarians must meet are identified by the use of the word ‘must’.
Person in charge
The ‘person in charge’ is defined very broadly and encompasses every person who is seen to have the animal under their care, control or supervision.
This definition extends to include the animal’s veterinarian in situations where the animal is being treated or managed under the specific instructions of the veterinarian and the veterinarian’s degree of control of the animal is such that they are in a position to actively influence the animal’s welfare.
Advice and recommendations to encourage veterinarians to maintain, or aspire to, high standards of professional conduct are identified by the word ‘should’.
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