Your preferred office location:
  1. Home
  2. /
  3. HHG Articles
  4. /
  5. Criminal Law
  6. /
  7. Animal Welfare | Regulatory Framework for Sheep and Cattle
6 Jul 2021

HHG Legal Group has been assisting WA’s Agribusiness sector for over 100 years. We are committed to providing proactive legal advice to corporations, entities, farms, families, and individuals. As a highly experienced Agribusiness law firm, we understand the unique issues associated with running a farm or agribusiness.

Bogdan Soactar, Consultant and Jordan Schweitzer, Lawyer, provide an overview of the legislative framework for cattle and sheep in terms of animal welfare.

Regulatory Framework for Sheep and Cattle

In 2008, the sheep and beef cattle industries were the largest animal industries in Western Australia. Although both industries have shrunk in recent years (noticeably during the COVID-19 pandemic), they continue to be some of Western Australia’s largest both domestically and in international markets through live animal exports. With such size and public expectations inevitably comes increased government regulation and the livestock animal industry is no exception. For WA sheep and cattle farmers, having a strong understanding of such regulatory frameworks is essential.

That is not to say that WA farmers are not used to working with the animal welfare laws governing their industry – industry stakeholders are heavily involved in the consultation process when devising new laws, regulations, and standards and guidelines relating to the livestock animal industry. But that close relationship does not mean that the various legislative and regulatory instruments, and how they interact with each other, are easy to understand especially when written in the language of legalese.

As an overview, the legislative framework for cattle and sheep in terms of animal welfare can be summarised as follows:

1. Acts of Parliament

Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA) – this Act makes it an offence to be cruel to all animals, including cattle and sheep (but interestingly, not including fish or human beings). The main provision of this Act is embodied in section 19 which simply and unambiguously states “a person must not be cruel to an animal”. As an Act of parliament, failures to comply with the Act can result in legal penalties.

2. Regulations

Animal Welfare (Transport, Saleyards, and Depots) (Cattle and Sheep) Regulations 2020 – This Regulation came into effect in October 2020 and, as its name suggests, it applies to both cattle and sheep during the transport process, and while being held in sale yards and depots. Like with the above Act, a Regulation also carries legal weight in that non-compliance with the Regulations can carry with it legal penalties.

Animal Welfare (General Regulations) 2003 – this Regulation seeks to clarify and support the Animal Welfare Act. For example, section 19(2)(b) of the Animal Welfare Act states that a person is cruel to an animal if they use a prescribed inhumane device on the animal. To determine what a “prescribed inhumane device” is, we must look at regulation 3 of the General Regulations which specifies the devices prescribed as inhumane, such as jaw traps. It is clear that to fully understand the Animal Welfare Act, it must be read along with the General Regulations.

3. Codes of Practice

In the Animal welfare regulatory scheme, a Code of Practice is an umbrella term for non-legal instruments that have been adopted under the Regulations for a specific purpose. Such non-legal instruments can include documents such as Standards and Guidelines. As its name suggests, Standards and Guidelines aim to set out minimum standards for the care and handling of animals and to provide guidelines to assist with compliance with those standards. As Standards and Guidelines are not legislative instruments in the same way as Acts or Regulations, a contravention does not necessarily lead to legal penalties.

That is not to say that a Standard and Guideline adopted as a Code of Practice need not be complied with. For example, should a person be charged with an act of cruelty under section 19 of the Animal Welfare Act, then:

  • should the person have failed to follow a relevant adopted Code of Practice, the Courts must take that failure into consideration; and
  • compliance with a relevant adopted Code of Practice is a potential defence to a charge of cruelty.

The above highlights two key features of adopted Codes of Practice:

  1. While compliance with Codes of Practice are not mandatory, doing so can assist WA farmers with compliance with the Animal Welfare Act; and
  2. Only those Standards and Guidelines that are adopted as Codes of Practice under regulation 6 of the General Regulations may be relied upon.

On the topic of sheep and cattle, the following Standards and Guidelines have been adopted as Codes of Practice under the General Regulations.

  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle;
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Land Transport of Livestock;
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Livestock at Saleyards and Depots; and

While the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep have not yet been adopted as a Code of Practice, these Standards and Guidelines will likely be implemented into a new Regulation late this year.

While there are many other Codes of Practice and Standards and Guidelines that are adopted under regulation 6 of the General Regulations, most are not relevant to cattle and sheep production.

In summary, the law is embodied in the Act and Regulations, and these must be complied with at all times. Adopted Codes of Practice on the other hand merely seeks to provide guidance (not hard and fast rules) to assist WA farmers with compliance with the Act and Regulations.

Clearly, the interlocking laws, regulations, and adopted Codes of Practice surrounding the farming of sheep and cattle are not particularly straightforward or consolidated into a single document. Further, these rules have recently been updated (or are about to be updated) with the Cattle and Sheep Transport Regulations coming into effect last year and with new Regulations likely being introduced regarding cattle and sheep in the near future (possibly by the end of 2021).

In this everchanging legal environment, the phrase “this is how we have always done things” is a potentially dangerous state of mind that could lead to unwitting contraventions and penalties. New community values and expectations reflected in the livestock animal laws and regulations such as the Cattle and Sheep Transport Regulations mean that WA farmers may need to rethink and update their approach to the handling and transport of cattle and sheep to ensure compliance with the law. The first step is always having a clear understanding of the surrounding law and accompanying regulatory framework.

Our team is highly skilled and experienced in providing holistic and practical legal solutions for the Agribusiness sectorContact us today if you need advice or representation in this area. 

*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

Supporting Western Australians for more than 100 years

"Always fast and thorough service. Thank you"

Sitka Pil

"My circumstances at the time I made contact with HHG were dire following my argument being rejected by two no win no fee firms. Following my initial meeting with HHG's employment law team I was left feeling extremely positive by the response and concern shown by HHG in regards to their support of my argument along with their preparedness to pursue an outcome on my behalf.

I accept the fact that nobody really wins in these cases (mental health/ workplace) however the end result was what would be considered most favourable and far in excess of what would have been achieved had I not sought the advice from HHG.

I have no hesitation in recommending HHG to anyone caught up in the messy circumstances I found myself in at the time.

Great advice and five-star commitment to their client!!"

Nathan Lynch

"Thank you for such great assistance with the transaction of Flying Domestics on behalf of Lorna Good. It has been such a pleasure to work with the HHG Legal Group and I look forward to working with you in the future."

Jim Goodwin

"Simon Creek and his team were at all times empathic, professional and confident.  My matter needed to be addressed within a pressing time frame, and their availability at short notice and contact after hours was much appreciated.  It caused me considerable stress, but having such a thoroughly reliable and competent team to call on helped me to feel in control. Although I hope not to need their services again in future, I would be confident in doing so!"

Dr Lana Bell

"A good outcome is what we can expect.  A great outcome is a sign of a company which does the very best for their clients. A very big thank you to Daniel Morris for showing empathy towards my small and much needed legal action.

To HHG Legal Group, thank you for a great outcome.  I would recommend your company to anyone seeking legal services."

Jan Atkinson

"Your support this morning was amazingly kind, not to mention your totally reassuring competence, knowledge and wisdom that you used on my behalf.  It was extremely reassuring to have your knowledgeable support, and I particularly appreciated your real and obvious kindness to me. It means so much at a very difficult time. I'm so grateful to you."

Family Law Client

"Janene was very professional and we established a good rapport quickly. The subject of death and wills can be quite confronting to deal with, however, Janene's approach was soft and accommodating."

Lynette Livesey

"A big thank you to HHG for their professional service, continued support, and wide range of legal knowledge. Our clients have given us nothing but kind words regarding HHG Legal Group and so we have no hesitation in referring and recommending Simon Creek and HHG Legal Group for their outstanding services and legal expertise."

Nigel Plowman, Director at Mckinley Plowman & Associates

"Simon is a friendly and practical legal advisor. I have received great feedback from the clients I have referred to him and his team at HHG Legal Group."

Richard Beal, Director at BDO

"Over the last few years, I have been impressed by Simon’s legal ability, management skills, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and people skills. He appears to be that rare breed of lawyer – both knowledgeable and commercial."

Michael Malone, Founder of iiNet

"Our family has been a client of HHG Legal Group over many years.  Business has included drawing up of wills for three generations and preparing of probate for my father in law. I would have no hesitation in recommending HHG Legal Group to anyone requiring such services."

Bernice Climie

"You should be congratulated for the manner in which your staff address clients and we found our dealings with your company, once again a very pleasant experience and we would like to truly thank you for your efforts."

Steve Harvey and Jane Powell

"HHG Legal were absolutely fantastic. Extremely responsive and brought calm to our chaotic family situation through their knowledge and caring attitude. Extremely professional from our very first contact with them and they expertly guided our family though the required legal process over almost a 12 month period."

Amanda Williamson

"Fantastic team! They really care about their client. Tim Colcutt is a 'go that extra mile' guy who gives his client his all. I can't recommend HHG and Tim enough."

Kerry Samson

"I had a fantastic lawyer in Matthew Lilly. He helped me out a great deal with good, sound advice in a friendly, professional manner. First class, thanks Matthew"

Graeme Hammond

"Marine Plant Systems has been working with HHG Legal Group for a few years now and they continually provide first-class service. Their professional advice has been invaluable to our company."

Carolin Grimm - Marine Plant Systems

"We were kept up to date at all times. Pricing was always updated over the time period so we remained "in budget". Personal access to someone whenever I had questions. All in all a great experience without too much fuss."

Rosslyn Tasker - COO Altusq Pty Ltd

"Good service you can count on."

Miles Lee

"HHG Legal Group has provided outstanding support as I have taken the journey of buying a business, their professionalism is beyond reproach. Their assistance throughout the Due Diligence process has been invaluable, I would fully recommend them."

Mark Armitage

"Very friendly and efficient service - what a pleasure working with Matthew."

Jacques Taylor

"I highly recommend Daniel from HHG Lawyer in Mandurah. When dealing with a complicated legal property matter recently I was extremely impressed by Daniel's honesty and integrity and the legal advice I received. I am very happy with the service from HHG Legal."

Tony Walker

"Lisa, thank you so much for representing me in court, honestly, I would not have had the outcome I got without you. Once again, Thank you so much."


"Matthew Lilly was excellent in processing our project. He achieved the excellent result that we required on our project.

We would give Matthew a 5 star rating.

We will definitely commission Matthew for any further projects if we have the need."


"I have had the pleasure of being represented by Ms Lisa Riley. Lisa helped me in December 2020 when I was charged. Lisa was extremely supportive, reassuring, and preserved with her investigation of the laws and was able to save me from a terrible outcome. Another incident occurred in August 2021 in which I sought Lisa’s help. Lisa preserved and was very patient with me. This only got resolved this year. When she advised me that she was leaving her old firm, I insisted that she remain my lawyer, as I had the utmost faith in her. Hence I moved over to HHG. Lisa took no shortcuts in my defence and continued to preserve for the toxicology report that ultimately saved me. She kept me up-to-date with the progress and provided support. Having someone as understanding as Lisa was a huge gift, to me and my family. You have gained a huge asset in Lisa joining your firm.

Thank you, Lisa, forever grateful for your work, and if ever needed, I will be sure to refer to you"


"We can highly recommend HHG Legal Group and particularly Mr Blair Campbell (Special Counsel / Dispute Resolution)

Blair worked with us as we navigated a very difficult third party dispute.

Blair’s expertise, wisdom, and the way he guided us in a very measured and calm manner gave us great encouragement and comfort. Blair helped us to focus on what we needed to and to trust the process.

Blair was always responsive to us, he always got back to us very promptly to answer our questions and to help us to step through some really hard days.

We are very grateful for Blair’s expertise and wisdom along with his empathy and care, this truly made the difference for us."

Wayne and Janice Belcher

Preferred office location:

Please select your nearest office location so we can show you the most relevant information.