Animal Welfare

A Message from the NSW Chief Animal Welfare Officer

Increased penalties and improved court orders passed by Parliament

In June 2021, NSW Parliament passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act 2021 which made several important changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA).

What are the changes? 

The changes increase maximum financial penalties and gaol time for significant animal welfare offences including cruelty, aggravated cruelty and failing to provide food, drink or shelter. These penalties are now some of the highest in Australia.  

The changes also expand the range of tools available to courts to effectively deal with animal welfare cases by introducing interim disqualification orders, as well as making existing POCTA court orders and alternative summons provisions available for the most serious animal cruelty offences. The changes also increase the financial penalty and introduce a gaol term for the offence of failing to comply with a court order under both POCTA and the Crimes Act 1900

Additional changes see persons guilty of certain animal cruelty offences under the Crimes Act 1900 automatically prohibited from purchasing, owning or working with an animal, as well as an extension to POCTA’s statutory limitation period and a revised ‘Animal Welfare Code of Practice – Breeding dogs and cats’ published before 31 August 2021. 

Why have the changes been made? 

The NSW Government made these changes as an interim step ahead of delivering its commitment to reform the NSW animal welfare legislative framework. The NSW Government will continue to consult with the community as the reforms progress. 

More details on the changes and the full Act can be found here

See the refreshed Animal Welfare website

The Animal Welfare website has been given a facelift as part of the NSW Government’s digital transformation strategy!

We trust you’ll find our new pages more user friendly, easier to navigate and filled with lots of helpful information to improve the health and welfare of pets, livestock and other animals.

See the new look website here.

Looking after your pet in colder weather

It may seem obvious, but winter is a good time to double-check that your pets can protect themselves from poor weather and high winds. Short and sparsely haired breeds, such as whippets, feel the cold more than other dogs.

There are some simple things you can do to ensure  winter is more comfortable for your pet.

Shelter indoors

If your dog is usually outside, bring them indoors if possible. Placing their bed somewhere warm and dry, away from cold drafts and damp is ideal.

Managing stiff / sore joints 

Winter is often the time when owners first notice their pets are aging. Pets might be stiffer in the morning, avoid stairs or be more reluctant to jump up. Arthritis is a painful condition that can affect the quality of life of  dogs and cats. Your vet can diagnose this disease and prescribe medications to help relieve stiffness or pain.

Bedding and clothing 

Purchasing a jacket or clothing to keep your pet warm is also a good option, but if your dog or cat dislikes wearing winter coats, focus on updating their bedding or layering with warm fleece blankets. Placing carpet squares or heavy blankets between your pet’s bed and the floor can also help reduce heat loss.

Battle of the bulge 

We are often indoors more with our pets during winter, who look to us for food and treats.  Overfeeding can cause obesity and other health issues, so try to keep a regular exercise schedule with your pet. Moderate exercise encourages healthy circulation and muscle tone, which in turn supports sore joints. However, as joints can be stiffer, especially in older animals, make sure you don’t overdo it.

This information is provided as general information only. For specific advice and information regarding your pet, we recommend that you seek the advice of your veterinarian. 

Looking after your horse in winter

Compared to smaller domestic pets, horses are more resilient to colder weather but still require care and attention to ensure their comfort.


  • Don’t rug horses based on how cold you feel! Horses are more adaptable to the cold weather than we give them credit for, their fur coat provides an insulative barrier which helps to keep them warm and dry and their size means they don’t lose heat as rapidly as humans.
  • Horses that will need to be rugged first include: older and younger horses, those with a clipped coat, those suffering an illness or horses without adequate shelter
  • Rugs should be checked daily to ensure they haven’t slipped and that they’re not rubbing.
  • Rugs  should not be considered until overnight temperatures decrease to 5-10°C, unless your horse is clipped and living outside.
  • Ideally, start with lighter rugs and move to thicker rugs as it gets colder.
  • During times of prolonged wet weather, rugs should be swapped or taken off to dry as wet rugs can trap moisture underneath and cause skin problems.
  • To allow for some Vitamin D formation, try to avoid having rugs on all day when turned out. For most areas of Australia, an hour a day exposure without a rug should be sufficient.


  • Fuel to heat the body comes from the energy in the food the horse eats. Good quality roughage such as hay, in particular lucerne hay, is digested by the process of fermentation in the horses ‘hind gut’.   This process releases heat and helps to keep the horse warm.
  • It can be common for water troughs/buckets to freeze during cold snaps. Make sure you check troughs daily to ensure your horse has access to water.


  • Heavy rains can lead to wet pastures/ground, resulting in wet hooves/feet, which can lead to lameness from an abscess, uneven growth or laminitis (inflammation of the soft tissue).
  • Make sure you feed your horse a balanced nutritious diet to support its overall health. Inspect your horse’s hooves regularly, trim when required, and if pain or swelling is found, consult with your vet.

Wishing you and your animals good health.

Dr Kim Filmer BVSc, GCMgt N3669
Chief Animal Welfare Officer
NSW Department of Primary Industries