It is your responsibility to protect the welfare of animals in your care at all times.
You have a legal obligation to ensure animals in your care are provided with proper and sufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary treatment when necessary.
It is an offence under law to abandon an animal.
In all States and Territories, if you are well you are able to leave home to take exercise with a family pet while practicing social distancing. You are also able to leave to purchase essential supplies or services including supplies and services for your animals.
Under movement restrictions, you are also permitted to leave home for work (paid or voluntary) if you are unable to perform this work at home: this includes work involving animal care (e.g. veterinary workers, farm workers, shelter workers, horse industry workers, registered wildlife carers).
However, many people are responsible for animals that are not located at their place of residence and are not part of their employment. This includes, but is not limited to, people who agist animals, recreational horse owners and owners of hobby farms. Additionally, during the current pandemic, animal owners still need to access veterinary services or take their animal to a veterinary clinic for treatment.
If you are subject to travel restrictions or stay-at-home orders, you must continue to care for your animals as needed while maintaining social distancing and, where required, minimising travel. If you do need to leave home to attend to your animals you should comply with the public gathering requirements, implement sensible biosecurity arrangements and practice good hygiene, including hand hygiene before and after handling animals and their equipment, bedding or food.
Where there is no specific statement from your State or Territory government confirming that you can leave your home to care for an animal, if you are stopped by the Police, you should explain that you are travelling to fulfil your legal obligation to care for your animal.
If you have been directed to self-isolate, you must make alternative arrangements for the care of animals who are not at your home.
This is the advice from States and Territories, current as of 25 May 2020:
ACT Government – the ACT government website includes information stating that you may leave your house to care for or exercise an animal.
Tasmanian Government – the Tasmanian Government has provided information stating that you can leave home to look after an animal’s welfare if the animal welfare need is essential and required.
NT Government – the advice on the NT Government’s website indicates that you can leave home to care for animals. This website also provides more detailed advice and states that pet owners should continue to exercise their pets as part of standard care for their animals.
NSW Government – the NSW Department of Primary Industries have clarified that you can leave your home to provide care to an animal and to undertake exercise, including riding a horse or walking a dog.
Queensland Government – there is not specific advice about leaving home to care for animals on the QLD government website. However, in Queensland, you have a legal obligation to ensure animals in your care are provided with proper and sufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary treatment when necessary and there does not appear to be any restriction on leaving your home to care for animals.
Victorian Government – in Victoria, you may leave your home for reasons including the maintenance, care or rescue of animals.
South Australian Government – there are no restrictions on travel within South Australia now, so you can leave home to care for animals. Previous advice was to re-consider your need to travel to regional areas. This advice has now been relaxed.
West Australian Government – To assist in reducing the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus the WA Government has introduced restrictions on travel to and within WA which could prevent people from travelling to care for animals under their care.
However, an online, mobile application has been introduced to is that allows you to apply for a travel exemption within and into Western Australia for your approved purpose – the G2G PASS. The app allows travellers to electronically request intrastate travel approvals. An approved traveller will be issued a QR code electronically which can be scanned by WA Police to quickly verify the exemption.
Travelling to care for your animals may be an approved purpose. Accessing veterinary services has been listed as an approved purpose.
According to an ABC report, the WA Police have stated that those exempt from the travel ban include someone needing to obtain or provide veterinary or animal welfare services not reasonably available where they live, including people taking pets or livestock to a vet.
If you are facing challenges caring for your animals, please get in touch with your local RSPCA to discuss options; we are here to offer support and help if possible.
Please note that this information has been prepared with the best and most current information available at the time but things are changing rapidly as the situation evolves.