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  7. Who’s on first? | Persons in charge and persons responsible in the sheep and cattle livestock industry
12 Jul 2021

HHG Legal Group has extensive experience in providing farmers with practical legal solutions for their business, family, and future. An important consideration for people in the livestock industry, in particular, is who is in charge of an animal, and who is responsible for that animal?

Bogdan Soactar and Jordan Schweitzer, provide an insight into Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA) and Animal Welfare (Transport, Saleyards, and Deports) (Cattle and Sheep) Regulations 2020 and where they might be applicable.

Responsible in the Sheep and Cattle Livestock Industry

In the livestock industry, the question of who is in charge of an animal, and who is responsible for that animal, are two different questions with the same answer – most likely you.

Taking a step back, whether or not you are a person in charge of a person responsible depends on whether the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA) or one of its subsidiary Regulations is applicable to the situation. If there has been a contravention of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA) (such as an act of cruelty), then the question is “who is in charge of an animal?” On the other hand, if a person fails to handle a livestock animal in accordance with the Animal Welfare (Transport, Saleyards, and Deports) (Cattle and Sheep) Regulations 2020 then the question changes to “who is the person responsible for the animal?”

On its face, the distinction between a person in charge and a person responsible may seem esoteric as they appear to refer to the same person. But this is not the case.

Under the Animal Welfare Act, a person in charge of an animal can be any of the following persons:

  • the owner of the animal;
  • the person who has actual physical custody or control of the animal;
  • the employer of a person who has actual physical custody or control of the animal; or
  • the owner or occupier of the place where an animal is located, such as the owner of a sale yard or farm.

On the other hand, under the above Cattle and Sheep Regulations, a person responsible for an animal can include all of the above persons in charge, in addition to the following which applies in specific circumstances:

  • the person handling the animal;
  • a person involved in buying or selling of the animal;
  • a consignor (the seller through an agent) of the animal (in certain circumstances specified in the Regulation);
  • the driver of a vehicle transporting the animal, or their employer;
  • the operator of a sale yard, depot, or other holding facilities (or their employees) where the animal is kept; or
  • the person who receives the animal after transportation, or their employer.

Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA) s 5(1) definition of “person in charge”.

Animal Welfare (Transport, Saleyards, and Deports) (Cattle and Sheep) Regulations 2020 (WA) reg 6.

While the persons responsible under the Cattle and Sheep Regulations are more expansive, they are limited only to circumstances involving cattle and sheep.

Importantly, although both the Act and Regulation identify multiple persons as being in charge of, or responsible for, livestock animals, neither specifies which person is more responsible or more in charge, than another person. The effect of this is, even if you are not the person who is in breach of the Act or Regulation if you are one of the persons responsible for, or in charge of, an animal then you can be liable for that breach and face penalties.

As Abbott and Costello once philosophised “who’s on first?”, WA farmers need to ask, “who’s in charge?” and “who is responsible?” – because it’s probably you.

Our team is highly skilled and experienced in providing holistic 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.

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