Relevant legislation

Note: All Queensland legislation can be viewed at the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel website.

Summary of the legislation

Veterinary Surgeons Act 1936
Veterinary Surgeons Regulation 2002

(A) An Act relating to the qualifications and registration of veterinary surgeons;

(B) and the regulation and control of the practice of veterinary science.

A) The Act and its subordinate legislation lays down the criteria whereby a person can be adjudged to be suitably qualified to practise veterinary science in Queensland. If suitably qualified, the legislation prescribes the procedure whereby the person can be registered in Queensland.

B) The Act provides for the constitution of a Veterinary Surgeons Board and a Veterinary Tribunal which work together to maintain and improve the standard of veterinary practice in the state.

This is achieved through:

  1. ensuring that registered vets are fit and proper persons to practise;
  2. investigating complaints concerning individual practitioners and disciplining those persons when warranted;
  3. monitoring and regulating the establishment and standard of veterinary premises;
  4. ensuring that non-veterinarians are not engaged in the performance of veterinary procedures for fee and reward;
  5. advising the Minister on changes to legislation that are required to meet present day needs.

The Queensland Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries is charged with the administration of the Act.

Animal Care and Protection Act 2001

The Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 provides assurances to both domestic and international communities that animals in Queensland are afforded acceptable standards of animal welfare in all types of animal use.

The Act places a duty of care on any person in charge of an animal. ‘Person in charge’ includes the person who has custody of an animal which is extended to veterinarians while an animal is in their care.

The regulation allows veterinarians to undertake surgical procedures on animals in the interest of the animal’s welfare which would otherwise be illegal e.g. docking procedures, debarking and declawing.

There are also provisions dedicated to the use of animals for scientific purposes.

Biosecurity Act 2014

Legislation relating to the keeping of mammals, reptiles and amphibians

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act), the keeping of most exotic animals as pets is prohibited in Queensland. Zoos and circuses can keep certain exotic species for exhibition purposes, but only under permit and under strict conditions of keeping.

In other countries numerous species that are derived from the pet trade have become serious pests. Examples include various lizards, snakes, frogs, salamanders, toads, turtles, chipmunks, hedgehogs and caimans.

For this reason, keeping many species of exotic animals as pets is prohibited by legislation.

Animals that are allowed

Domestic animals that can be legally kept in Queensland without a permit are: Dogs, Cats, Horses, Goats, Donkeys, Guinea pigs, Rats, Mice, Domestic Pigs, Domestic Deer, Cattle, Alpacas, Llamas, common cage birds such as cockatiels, lovebirds and budgerigars.

Animals that are restricted matter

Restricted animals are generally those that are established in the wild but restrictions apply, for example, these animals cannot be kept, fed or released. This includes rabbits, dingoes and foxes which cannot be kept, fed or released and feral cats, feral deer, feral goats and feral pigs which cannot be fed or released.

Animals that are prohibited matter

This applies to all other mammals, reptiles and amphibians that are not domestic animals or restricted matter and includes zoo species, chameleons, boa constrictors, corn snakes and ferrets.

Native animals as pets

Some native animals can be kept under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the Nature Conservation Regulation 1994. Marsupials and monotremes cannot be kept except for rehabilitation purposes. Permits are required to keep most species of reptiles and amphibians and some birds. Contact the Department of Environment and Science (DES) if unsure of permit requirements.

Veterinarian's obligation

Animals that are Prohibited Matter: If you become aware of prohibited matter (such as an illegally kept boa constrictor, corn snake etc) or you believe, or ought reasonably believe, that something is prohibited matter you need to report it immediately to Biosecurity Queensland unless you are aware that it has already been reported.

You must also take all reasonable steps to minimise the risks of the prohibited matter and not make the situation worse.

This means that although you could provide emergency treatment to an illegally kept animal that is prohibited matter, you must report the presence of the animal.

If you were to board or rehome an illegally kept pet that is prohibited matter, this would be dealing with the animal and you would be in breach of the Act, which provides for fines and custodial sentences for dealing with prohibited species.

Animals that are restricted matter

It is not a direct offence for a veterinarian to treat an illegally kept pet that is restricted matter such as a rabbit, as the owner of the pet has legal responsibility for the animal. The veterinarian may choose to advise the owner of the possible repercussions of illegally keeping a declared pest animal. Animals can be seized and destroyed under the Act and the owner may be prosecuted.

However the legislation prohibits keeping, feeding, releasing or supplying certain animals that are restricted matter. This means that the following examples are all offences under the legislation:

  1. Boarding an illegally kept pet rabbit. This would be defined as keeping under the Act. Rehoming an illegally kept pet rabbit is defined as supplying under the Act.
  2. Releasing a declared pest animal such as a wild rabbit, fox or feral pig is an offence
  3. This means that when a member of the public hands in an animal that is restricted matter, the veterinarian may not treat and release the animal. The animal may be humanely euthanased or may be passed to the Local Government or DAF. It is not legal to send the animals interstate as the period of transport is defined as keeping under the Act.
  4. The practice of Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) for feral cats is not legal as this is the release of an animal that is restricted matter.
  5. Dingoes cannot be kept by individuals in Queensland.

Some species may be legally kept interstate but are not permitted in Queensland. Even if the owner holds a permit in another State, if the owner brings the animal into Queensland without reasonable excuse, the animal may be legally seized. However, it is recognised that in some cases a veterinarian may need to see an animal such as a rabbit that is legally kept interstate but not allowed in Queensland (e.g. an animal kept near the border that needs emergency care). In these cases, please contact Biosecurity Queensland (Invasive Plants and Animals) for advice.

For all enquiries related to the treatment of animals under the Biosecurity Act, please phone 13 25 23.

Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021

Queensland registered veterinarians have professional responsibilities under the provisions of the Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021 in particular in respect to controlled drugs (S8) and restricted drugs (S4)

A person must not be in possession of a controlled or restricted drug without authority.

Veterinarians are authorised, only to the extent necessary to practise veterinary science, to obtain, possess, administer and dispense prescription drugs.

The misuse of prescription drugs by authorised persons including veterinarians is a serious offence and prosecution can result in conviction with heavy monetary penalties and loss of veterinary registration.

Radiation Safety Act 1999

The intent of the Radiation Safety Act 1999 is to protect persons from health risks associated with exposure to radiation. There are legislative requirements for veterinarians who possess/use or intend to possess/use equipment for plain film veterinary radiography.

If any person intends to use x-ray equipment, the person must hold a use licence. Any person owning x-ray equipment must hold a possession licence.

Possession licensees must ensure that users are appropriately licensed. The employment prospects of veterinarians are greatly enhanced if the person holds a use licence at the time of application for a position.

Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Act 1988

This legislation describes the restrictions placed on veterinarians for using, prescribing and supplying a registered, unregistered or compounded veterinary chemical product. (Relevant sections - Part 2 Division 2 section 12-12V).

Last updated: 26 Sep 2023