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 care of animals while practicing social distancing and taking all required precautions. 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 essential work (paid or voluntary) which includes work involving animal care (e.g. veterinary workers, farm workers, shelter workers, horse industry workers, registered wildlife carers, workers at pet shops).
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 8 January 2021:
ACT Government – the ACT government website includes information stating that you may leave your house to care for or exercise an animal when COVID-19 movement restrictions are in place.
Tasmanian Government – the Tasmanian Government has provided information stating that you can leave home when COVID-19 movement restrictions are in place to look after an animal’s welfare if the animal welfare need is essential and required.
NT Government – you can leave home to care for animals when COVID-19 movement restrictions are in place. 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 when COVID-19 movement restrictions are in place 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 when COVID-19 movement restrictions are in place 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 when COVID-19 movement restrictions are in place (including under stage 3 and 4 restrictions).
When COVID-19 movement restrictions are in place you can leave your home for the purposes of obtaining essential goods or service from a pet store or veterinary clinic or urgent services necessary for the health and safety or any person, animal or premises. In addition, you may leave your home to ensure adequate supply of food, care and exercise to animals that are situated away from the home if no other person is available. You are also allowed to take your dog when you go to the shops on your own to pick up essential goods and services. You are also permitted to leave your home to feed livestock.
West Australian Government – there are currently no restrictions on leaving home to care for animals.
There are some simple but important steps you can take to ensure the health and safety of your own pets and neighbours’ pets in the case of an emergency. We have prepared these interactive PDFs to help you prepare your emergency plan for your animals:
- Emergency Animal Authorisation Form
- Emergency Animal Preparedness Plan
- We also have “Animals Inside Cards” for you to print and fill out and put on your doors/windows to alert first responders that you have animal(s) in your home needing assistance in case of emergency.
The Pet Emergency Plan initiative is funded by the Natural Disaster Resilience Program, and has been developed by RSPCA South Australia in partnership with the Commonwealth and State Government of South Australia.
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.