Veterinarians must comply with the law, this Code and other VCNZ professional standards.
Understanding the guiding principle
Many Acts, Regulations, rules and standards impact on veterinary practice.
Veterinarians must maintain a working knowledge of, and comply with, the current legislation and the rules and standards which impact directly on their area of veterinary practice.
The most applicable legislation and standards are contained in sections 1 and 2 of this section of the Code. 'Most applicable' in this context means the requirements that are either particular to veterinarians (ie refer to veterinarians), or particular to the veterinarian acting in a role or capacity based on his or her veterinary knowledge. It is more likely that an investigation and possible action would be taken by the responsible agency and/or VCNZ if these requirements are not met or breached.
There is other legislation that impacts on veterinarians in other roles that they hold such as employers, building owners and contractors, and even traders or manufacturers. These are listed in understanding paragraph 3 (below). VCNZ's jurisdiction applies when a veterinarian is acting in a veterinary capacity, or when a veterinarian, acting in either a veterinary or non-veterinary capacity, brings the profession into disrepute.
Disciplinary action can be taken by VCNZ where veterinarians are convicted of offences which reflect adversely on their fitness to practise.
The legislation can be found at www.legislation.govt.nz.
Lack of knowledge of legislative and other requirements set out in rules and standards is not normally accepted as a defence in the event of breaches.
Reading legislation can be daunting and confusing. However most of the bodies responsible for the specific legislation have plain language guidance available on their websites. NZVA publishes website guidance for its members on the most significant legislation impacting on veterinary practice.
Veterinarians are encouraged to discuss difficult issues with:
- senior colleagues
- their indemnity insurer
- the VCNZ Registrar
- the responsible agency. For example MPI ACVM advisors for restricted veterinary medicine queries
- their legal advisor.
Veterinarians must practise in accordance with the legislation which directly impacts on their practice. This includes the relevant provisions of:
- Veterinarians Act 2005 and associated subordinate legislation (such as Minimum Practising Standards for Practising as a Veterinarian Notice)
- Animal Welfare Act 1999 and associated subordinate legislation (such as Codes of Welfare)
- Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997 and associated legislation and standards in relation to the use, authorisation, sale and supply of veterinary medicines
- Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and associated regulations
- Medicines Act 1981 and associated regulations
- Biosecurity Act 1993 and associated subordinate legislation and standards
- Section 87A of the Health Act 1956 and Health (Diseases Communicated by Animals) Regulations
- Animal Products Act 1999 and associated subordinate legislation and standards
- Food Act 1981 and associated regulations
- Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 and associated regulations
- Radiation Protection Act 1965 and associated codes of practice
- Privacy Act 1993
- Electronic Transactions Act 2002.
Understanding section 1
Veterinarians Act 2005
The purpose of this Act is to protect the public interest by aiming to ensure that veterinarians are competent to practise; and, for that purpose to provide VCNZ with the powers to:
- register people qualified to practise as veterinarians
- issue practising certificates to specialists and people qualified to practise as veterinarians
- set and implement standards for veterinary performance
- monitor performance and, if necessary, discipline veterinarians and certain other people.
Veterinarians have certain responsibilities under the Veterinarians Act 2005 and its regulations. In particular veterinarians must:
- not practise without holding a practising certificate
- maintain minimum practising standards in relation to:
- fitness to practise
- professional conduct
- competence to practise
- recency of practice, and
- continuing professional development
- provide the information required by VCNZ when applying for a practising certificate along with the relevant fee
- not describe themselves as or imply that they are a specialist, unless they are registered in the veterinary specialty concerned
- notify VCNZ within one month of changing their name, address or practice
- comply with any conditions that VCNZ may place on their scope of practice
- provide information to the VCNZ's Complaints Assessment Committee on request
- comply with any orders that the VCNZ's Judicial Committee may make following a disciplinary hearing
- make practice records available to inform any review of their competence
- comply with any requirements arising from a competence review or medical assessment.
Animal Welfare Act 1999
The purposes of the Act include:
- ensuring that owners of animals and persons in charge of animals attend properly to their welfare
- prohibiting or controlling certain types of conduct towards animals
- • providing for codes of welfare that establish minimum animal welfare standards and include recommendations on best practice
- regulating the use of animals in research, testing, and teaching.
Veterinarians have specific powers and obligations under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, and must be familiar with these.
For further information refer to:
- the Animal welfaresection of this Code
- NZVA Guidance on Fitness for Transport including Veterinary Certification
- VCNZ Guidance on Dealing with cases of suspected or actual animal abuse and family violence
Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act 1997
The purpose of this Act is to:
- prevent or manage risks associated with the use of agricultural compounds, being:
- risks to public health
- risks to trade in primary produce
- risks to animal welfare
- risks to agricultural security
- ensure that the use of agricultural compounds does not result in breaches of domestic food residue standards
- ensure the provision of sufficient consumer information about agricultural compounds.
Veterinarians have specific powers and obligations under the ACVM Act 1997, and must be familiar with these.
For further information refer to:
- The Veterinary medicines section of this Code
Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and associated regulations
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and associated regulations govern the prescribing and supply of controlled drugs and provide for the prevention of their misuse.
Controlled drugs are arranged in classes and have varying rules applying to their prescribing/authorisation and security. Schedules 1–3 of the Act set out the products in each of the three classes.
Schedule 1 of the Regulations sets out the requirements for controlled drug registers.
The Medicines Control section of the Ministry of Health is responsible for monitoring the sale and prescribing of controlled drugs.
Veterinarians have specific obligations under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and must be familiar with these. Although veterinarians are exempted under this legislation from some of the record keeping requirements, there are professional obligations under this Code around controlled drugs registers and reconciliations.
For further information refer to the Veterinary medicines section of this Code
Medicines Act 1981 and associated regulations
This legislation controls the manufacture, sale and supply of medicines (other than controlled drugs), medical devices and related products.
The Act contains a specific exemption allowing veterinarians to authorise the sale, supply or administration of medicines (as defined in the Medicines Act 1981) for the treatment of animals under their care.
Section 39 of the Medicines Regulations prohibit veterinarians from prescribing any prescription medicine otherwise than in the practice of their profession for the treatment of an animal under their care. The same legal restraints apply to pharmacy-only medicines.
Schedule 1 of the Regulations sets out the products which are prescription, restricted or pharmacy-only medicines.
v. For further information refer to:
- the Veterinary medicines section of this Code
- www.legislation.govt.nz (and search for the Act or Regulations)
- VCNZ Standard on Discretionary Use of Human and Veterinary Medicines by Veterinarians
Biosecurity Act 1993
The Biosecurity Act provides for:
- the effective management of risks associated with the importation of risk goods
- the continuous monitoring of New Zealand's status in regard to pests and unwanted organisms
- the effective management or eradication of pests and unwanted organisms
- the effective prevention, management, or eradication of unwanted organisms if emergencies or other exigencies occur.
There are mandatory reporting requirements, to MPI, of the presence or possible presence of notifiable diseases.
There are a number of regulations and orders made under the Biosecurity Act which may have relevance to veterinarians working in particular areas. These include:
- Imported Animals and Semen Information Regulations
- Infringement Offences Regulations
- Animal Identification Systems Regulations
- Meat and Food Waste Regulations
- National Pest Management Strategies for American Foulbrood and Varroa
- National Pest Management Order for Bovine Tuberculosis which includes the National Operational Plan for bovine tuberculosis. This plan covers all the Animal Health Board (the designated Management Agency for TB) policies for the management of bovine TB in New Zealand. Given that bovine tuberculosis is a nationally recognised pest under this section of the Biosecurity Act 1993 it is necessary that veterinarians are familiar with the relevant sections especially if they are accredited to apply approved TB tests, or authorised to act according to the powers described within the Act.
For further information refer to:
- the Professional integrity section of this Code
- TB Free
- MPI - Surveillance programs
Health Act 1956 and Health (Diseases Communicated by Animals) Regulations
The Health Act 1956 provides the Ministry of Health, District Health Boards and Local Authorities with powers to improve, promote and protect public health, for example in relation to water supply, infectious and notifiable diseases and air pollution.
Section 87A of the Act requires ‘every veterinary surgeon who has reason to believe that any animal professionally attended by him is suffering from a (declared) communicable disease to… give notice in the prescribed form to the Medical Officer of Health… Every person commits an offence against this Act who fails to comply with the provisions of this section’
Under the Regulations, Anthrax, Ornithosis (psittacosis), Rabies and Trichinosis have been declared communicable diseases.
Schedule 1 of the Regulations contains the prescribed form.
Animal Products Act 1999
The object of this Act is to:
- minimise and manage risks to human or animal health arising from the production and processing of animal material and products by instituting measures that ensure so far as is practicable that all traded animal products are fit for their intended purpose
- facilitate the entry of animal material and products into overseas markets by providing the controls and mechanisms needed to give and to safeguard official assurances for entry into those markets.
There are a number of regulations and notices made under the Animal Products Act 1999 which may have relevance to veterinarians working in particular areas. These include:
- Animal Products (Sulphonamide-on-site Monitoring and Surveillance and non-Sulphonamide Antibiotic Monitoring (Bobby Calves) Notice, 2005
- Animal Products (Export Requirements – Cats and Dogs) Notice, 2005.
- This notice makes it mandatory for all cats and dogs exported from New Zealand, which require an official assurance from a veterinarian, to be microchipped prior to being presented for certification.
- Animal Products (Ante-mortem and Post-mortem Examination of Mammals, Ostriches and Emu Intended for Human Consumption) Notice 2006, which provides that:
- animals that develop metabolic disorders while in the care of the operator or have suffered a metabolic disorder during transport to the primary processing premises or place may be treated by or under the supervision of a veterinarian
- veterinarians are recognised to carry out ante and post mortem examinations
- Part 10 of the Animal Products (Specifications For Products Intended For Human Consumption) Notice 2004, Administration Consolidation (Version 3). Under this notice suppliers must not present animal material for processing which has been treated with or exposed to a registered agricultural compound in a manner that differs from its conditions of registration. An exception to this is where a veterinarian has prescribed a lesser withholding period in respect of the treatment of that animal and that withholding period is complied with.
- Animal Products (Regulated Control Scheme – Hormonal Growth Promotants) Notice 2009.
- This contains veterinarians’ legal obligations relating to the control, administration and recordkeeping for HGP use
- Animal Products (Control of Specified Substances) Notice 2007.
- Under this notice veterinarians have legal obligations to meet the requirement of specified substances as listed for applicable species.
- Under the Animal Products (Export Requirement: Inspection Agencies Ante-Mortem and Post-Mortem Inspection) Notice 2009 Schedule 2, veterinarians are accountable for the following verification activities:
- AM inspection (including animal welfare in lairages)
- Animal welfare at slaughter
- PM inspection
- Tb detection, Tb sampling, security, packaging, submission, and boning under supervision notification
- Official assessor performance assessment (Statistically based performance measurement of official assessor AM & PM activities)
- Residues; Monitoring Surveillance, Survey, ISL. Official sampling and submission
- Control of product after official sampling , including boning of suspect product under supervision
- SOS testing, traceback and product disposition
- Trichinella sampling
- ASD’s and Lists
- Species Verification
- Disease and defect information
- Brands and inventory control
- Security Devices (Carton seals and container seals)
- Operator non-conformance
- Regulatory Overview, Hygienic slaughter and dressing
- Pre operative hygiene assurance
- Under Schedule 2 of the above notice, veterinarians may also perform the following tasks:
- Tb disposition
- Notification of sampling programme and sample plan
- Traceback and product disposition
- Water sampling - supervision of sample taking and official sealing
- Control of designated product for detention
- RMP and OMAR verification
- Under the Animal Products (Regulated Control Scheme – On-farm and Stock Saleyard Verification) Notice 2009, verification at premises for this regulated control scheme must be conducted by registered veterinarians currently working for MPI in the verification area at EU-listed export meat slaughter premises.
- Under export requirements specified in OMAR 01/183 and TD 02/12 if a suspect T saginata lesion is found on post-mortem inspection procedures for veterinary inspection are as per Manual 16, Inspection table.
- OMAR 05/7 Supervision of Slaughter Establishments requires all official veterinarians, to be appropriately qualified and defines an Official Veterinarian as a person that has an appropriate veterinary qualification, is registered with VCNZ, is employed under the State Sector Act 1988, is an Official Assurance Verifier, and is appointed as an Animal Products Officer.
For further information refer to the Professional integrity section of this Code.
Food Act 2014 and associated regulations
The Food Act 2014 regulates the sale of food for human consumption and is administered by MPI.
Veterinarians' responsibilities include providing guidance and advice on the likely presence and control of biological and chemical hazards in relation to food production and processing across the whole of the food chain from primary production to consumption. Biological hazards include zoonotic pathogens and pathogens associated with other inputs into the food chain. Veterinary training equips veterinarians with the skills to assist with the required Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) application and risk management activities under the Food Act. Those involved in these activities must therefore be very familiar with the requirements of the Food Act and associated regulations.
For further information refer to MPI – Food Safety – Overview.
Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO)
The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 covers the safe management of all hazardous substances. This includes those that are explosive, flammable, corrosive, toxic and harmful to the environment (ecotoxic).
The Act established the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand) to assess and decide on applications to introduce hazardous substances or new organisms into New Zealand. This includes genetic modification of plants, animals and other living things in New Zealand.
The HSNO Act 1996 requires a small number of veterinary medicines to be under the control of a specially qualified person called an Approved Handler. In addition, the transfer of a few very hazardous veterinary medicines (organophosphates) must be recorded or 'tracked'. To take delivery of a tracked product veterinarians need to ensure that an Approved Handler is in place.
Veterinarians with a current practising certificate, who are storing or using the veterinary medicine in the ordinary course of their business or employment, do not require to be an Approved Handler. However, this exception does not apply when a veterinarian is storing the veterinary medicine for the purposes of resale.
On 1 July 2011 ERMA New Zealand was disestablished and all of its functions were transferred to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
For further information refer to Guide to HSNO Controls.
Radiation Safety Act 2016 and associated regulations and codes of practice
The New Zealand radiation protection legislation consists of the Radiation Safety Act 2014. The legislation controls the hazards from apparatus that generates ionising radiation, and from radioactive material.
The use of radioactive materials or irradiating apparatus for any purpose is restricted to people holding a licence under the Act for that purpose, or anyone acting under the supervision or instruction of a person with a suitable licence.
Currently, to be eligible for a licence, veterinarians must be a registered with a current practising certificate.
A licence information pack, containing relevant information can be obtained by contacting the NRL.
Licences are renewable annually.
Compliance with the requirements of the Code of Safe Practice for the use of x-rays in Veterinary Diagnosis is a standard condition placed on all licences to use x-rays in veterinary diagnosis. The Code specifies radiation safety management requirements, x-ray machine performance and facility requirements, and occupational and public dose limits.
The Radiation Safety Act 2014 allows x-rays to be used by unlicensed persons under the supervision or instruction of a licensee. However there are restrictions on who may act in a supervised or instructed role.
For further information refer to:
Privacy Act 2020
This Act promotes and protects individual privacy. It applies with few exceptions across the public and private sectors.
The Privacy Act is directly concerned with information privacy about individuals. It contains 12 information privacy principles about the collection, holding, use and disclosure of personal information and assigning of unique identifiers. The principles also give rights to individuals to access personal information and to request correction of it.
For further information refer to:
• the Privacy Commissioner's website at www.privacy.org.nz
• Paragraph 4 of the Veterinary services section of this Code and related explanatory notes.
Contracts and Commercial Law Act 2017
One purpose of this Act is to facilitate the use of electronic technology by:
- reducing uncertainty regarding:
- the legal effect of information that is in electronic form or that is communicated by electronic means; and
- the time and place of dispatch and receipt of electronic communications;
- providing that certain paper-based legal requirements may be met by using electronic technology that is functionally equivalent to those legal requirements
For further information refer to the Professional integrity section of this Code and related explanatory notes.
Veterinarians must practise in accordance with the professional standards set or endorsed by VCNZ. These include:
- Statement on the Information Requirements for authorising Dry Cow Therapy
- Statement on the Discretionary Use of Human and Veterinary Medicines by Veterinarians
- Statement on the Induction of Dairy Cattle
- Statement on Compounding and Manufacturing Veterinary Medicines
- The continuing professional development requirements set out in the VCNZ document Continuing Professional Development – Information for Veterinarians
- Policy on Recency of Practice
- Competence Standards and Performance Indicators for Veterinarians
- Policy on the Use of Titles
- Policy on Qualifications and post nominal titles for inclusion on the Register of Veterinarians.
Understanding section 2
The primary purpose of VCNZ is to protect the public interest by ensuring that veterinarians are fit and competent to practise. Under the Veterinarians Act 2005 the VCNZ has the statutory power to prescribe minimum standards for practising as a veterinarian.
This Code of Conduct and the other prescribed Minimum Standards for Practising as a Veterinarian set out the professional standards veterinarians must abide by. VCNZ also issues statements and guidelines which clarify and expand on the principles set out in the Code and the Minimum Practising Standards. Such statements and guidelines may be developed by VCNZ or developed by another organisation and endorsed by VCNZ.
As at January 2023, existing standards are:
- Health Practitioners Undertaking Surgical Procedures on Animals
- Compounding Veterinary Medicines
- Discretionary Use of Human and Veterinary Medicines by Veterinarians
- Cattle Disbudding and Dehorning by Non-Veterinarians
- Authorisation of Dry Cow Therapy
- Manufacturing Veterinary Medicines
- Certification of fitness for transport of livestock
- Induction of Calving in Cattle
- Authorisation of adult cat and dog vaccinations for administration by veterinary nurses during the current veterinary workforce shortage
- the continuing professional development requirements set out in the VCNZ document Continuing Professional Development - Information for Veterinarians
Veterinarians must maintain a working knowledge of the legislation which impacts on their practice in their associated roles such as employers, business owners or veterinary medicine traders.
Understanding section 3
Veterinarians are expected to maintain a working knowledge of other legislation which impacts on their practice in their associated roles such as employers, business owners or veterinary medicine traders. This includes but is not limited to:
For further information refer to www.legislation.govt.nz (and search for the Act or Regulations).