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Is dehorning of cattle legal?

Article ID: 274
Last updated: 16 Nov, 2017
Revision: 5
Views: 13030

 State

 Yes/No 

 name of relevant act/special conditions and requirements

 ACT

 Yes

No expressed prohibition of dehorning cattle in ACT legislation, including the Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT) and the Animal Welfare Regulation 2001 (ACT). 

The Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Cattle is an advisory code approved (but not mandatory) under the Act.  The Code encourages the breeding of polled cattle to prevent the need for cattle dehorning.  It is recommended that dehorning should occur:

  •  as young as possible and prior to weaning;
  •  at a suitable time so that flies are not a problem;
  •  with ongoing inspection for 10 days and with treatment of infected wounds;
  •  for domestic cattle without analgesics, dehorning should be confined to the first muster and preferable before 6 months of age; and
  • using scoop dehorners, gouging knife or heat cautery as soon as horn buds are detectable, or using chemicals by a competent operator within the first few days after birth.

The Code recommends that older cattle can be tipped without local analgesics, however, adults must be dehorned by a veterinarian using anaesthetic.

 NSW

 Yes

No expressed prohibition of dehorning cattle in NSW legislation, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2012. However, procedure should be conducted in accordance with Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Cattle.

The Veterinary Practice Regulations 2013 (NSW) prescribe the dehorning of cattle over 12 months of age to be a restricted act that must be undertaken by a veterinarian under the Act.

 NT

 Yes

The dehorning of cattle is not expressly prohibited by Northern Territory law. 

The Animal Welfare Act 2000 (NT) provides for codes of practice to be adopted by notice in the Government Gazette.  The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Cattle is an advisory code under the Act.  

 QLD

 Yes

No expressed prohibition of dehorning cattle in Qld legislation, including the Animal Care and Protection Act 2002 and the Animal Care and Protection Regulations 2012. However, procedure should be conducted in accordance with Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Cattle.

For cattle over 6 months of age, the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1936 (Qld) makes it an offence for a person who is not a veterinary surgeon to dehorn cattle for fee or reward.

 SA

 Yes

No expressed prohibition of dehorning cattle in SA legislation, including the Animal Welfare Act 1985 and the Animal Welfare Regulations 2012. However, procedure must be conducted in accordance with the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for cattle.

The Veterinary Practice Regulations 2005 (SA) exclude the dehorning of cattle under 6 months of age from the definition of veterinary treatment under the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 (SA).  Over the age of 6 months, it is an offence for an unqualified person to dehorn cattle for fee or reward.

 TAS

 Yes

No expressed prohibition of dehorning cattle in Tas legislation, including the Animal Welfare Act 1993 and the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations 2013. However, procedure should be conducted in accordance with Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Cattle.

 VIC

 Yes

Dehorning of cattle is not explicitly prohibited under Victorian legislation. The Code of accepted farming practice for the welfare of cattle (2001) is an advisory code adopted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic). In order to comply with the Code dehorning:

  •  without local anaesthetic or analgesics should be confined to animals less than 6 months of age;
  •  should be carried out by heat cautery, scoop dehorners or a gouging knife; and
  •  should not be performed using chemicals.

Older cattle may be tipped without anaesthetic.

 WA

 Yes

No expressed prohibition of dehorning cattle in WA legislation, including the Animal Welfare Act 2002and the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations 2003. However, procedure should be conducted in accordance with Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Cattle.

The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1960 (WA) makes it an offence for a person who is not a registered veterinary surgeon to practice veterinary surgery.  The operation of dehorning cattle under the age of 12 months, using humane methods, is excluded from the prohibition (the exclusion expressly allows the operation to be performed for reward).


This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person's unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
Also read
document Why are painful procedures performed without anaesthetic?
document Can the RSPCA prosecute farmers for performing painful husbandry procedures without anaesthetic or pain relief?
document Why are cattle dehorned and is it painful?

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