Code of practice for the Welfare of Film Animals

This Code applies to the use of animals in the production of films for cinemas, television, recreational or educational purposes, including features, documentaries, serials, videos and advertising commercials.

This Code aims to prevent cruelty and encourage the considerate treatment of animals on film sets.

This Code recognises the wide range of situations where different types of animals would be used on film sets and that animals will be required to perform tasks, which may be complex, with other animals, people and special effects in situations that could cause distress, sickness or injury to performing animals.

This Code does not approve of any act which intentionally endangers, kills, injures, stresses or abuses an animal for entertainment purposes or any scene which portrays or creates the impression that abuse or misuse of animals is desirable.

This Code contains 'Definitions', 'General Provisions' and for commercial film production 'Responsibilities of Producers' and 'Responsibilities of Animal Trainers and Veterinary Surgeons'.


For the purposes of this Code:

  • 'Animal' means any live member of a vertebrate species including any amphibian, reptile, bird or mammal other than human being or fish.
  • 'Animal handler' means a person who as an assistant, under the supervision of an animal trainer, is capable of handling the types of animals which are to be used on a film set.
  • 'Animal trainer' includes a wrangler and means a person who has experience and is competent in the management and training of the types of animals to be used and has a working knowledge of production techniques and film crew movements on a film set.
  • 'Bureau of Animal Welfare' means the Director, Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, 475/485 Mickleham Road, Attwood, 3049.
  • 'Film set' (or 'set') means a place where filming occurs and where training and rehearsal in preparation for filming is undertaken.
  • 'First assistant director' means the person who is responsible for communication between the director, crew and staff on a film set.
  • 'Producer' means the person who represents a film company in organising the production of a film and the employment of all people.
  • 'Safety supervisor' means the person on a film set who is responsible for the safety of people on the set at all times under the film industry recommended safety code.
  • 'Veterinary surgeon' means a veterinary surgeon who has experience in the management, care and treatment of types of animals to be used and in any veterinary procedure to which the animals will be subjected.

General provisions

  • This Code assumes that whatever the requirement of the script, particularly where dramatic and sensational scenes are involved, people responsible for the management of animals used on film sets have a duty to consider the welfare of animals under their control and that this care should be separate from the interests of film production. Film making techniques need to be considered for their impact on the welfare of animals. All people working with animals on film sets should demonstrate patience.
  • Scenes that pose a risk to the welfare of animals include fast movement of any type by animals, large numbers of animals, aggressive or dangerous animals in contact with other animals, action scenes, involving young animals or sets where there are obstacles to movement, difficult terrain or ground surfaces, adverse weather or visibility, large amounts of fire or smoke or any special effects that may frighten animals.
  • This Code requires that animal trainers and veterinary surgeons be employed to attend to performing animals on film sets. This requirement does not apply to film production where animals do not perform as occurs when animals are present in the background or in observational scenes.
  • Where animals are required to perform in scenes, one or more animal trainers assisted where necessary by animal handlers should be present. At least one veterinary surgeon should be present on a filmset where there is a risk of injury or distress to animals. Veterinary surgeons as required should be on stand-by for scenes that do not involve any such risks provided they can attend within 20 minutes. Where a delay in providing veterinary attention would be longer than 20 minutes, a veterinary surgeon should be present on the set.
  • Unnecessary people should not be present around the camera or in the immediate action area of the set. Persons under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not be permitted on a film set during rehearsal or filming when animals are working.
  • People working with animals on film sets should be familiar with the film industry safety code and legislation that prohibits cruelty to animals and the unlawful interference with wildlife.
  • Except for approved scientific purposes or filming of wildlife, no animal which is distressed, sick or diseased, sore, lame or injured should be used on a film set. Very young animals may only be used in action scenes with the specific approval of a veterinary surgeon.
  • Glare, heat, noises or other conditions likely to cause distress to animals, including wildlife, should be avoided. Minor exposure to these influences should be reduced to the shortest possible time by judicious scheduling and camera techniques. Tolerance of these influences depend on the species of animal; wildlife may be extremely sensitive.
  • The use of special effects including fireworks to frighten animals is prohibited.
  • The use of any medicine, other than electrolytes or vitamins, to alter the behaviour of animals participating in film production is not permitted, except on the advice of a veterinary surgeon who must be present on the set
  • Sedatives or anaesthetics for animals must only be used if the same effects cannot be achieved by the training of animals or the use of dummies. The sedation or anaesthesia must not be cruel or frightening to the animal or potentially dangerous to its health and wellbeing and must only be administered by a veterinary surgeon. Adequate facilities must be available for recovery period.
  • To assist in determining compliance with this Code of Practice, the Code provides for reports to the Bureau of Animal Welfare via the producer from the veterinary surgeon, or animal trainer where a veterinary surgeon is not present.

Responsibilities of the producers

For the purposes of this Code, these are the responsibilities of the producer.

To consult with an animal trainer and a veterinary surgeon during pre-production planning stages to obtain early advice on:

  • The ability and availability of animals to perform.
  • Procedures that should be adopted to protect the health and welfare of animals to be used from the time they are assembled, during rehearsal and filming, until their dispersal.
  • In some situations, consultation may be necessary with more than one animal trainer and veterinary surgeon. Some situations also may require consultation with other persons with recognised expertise, for example, wildlife biologists where filming or wildlife is proposed.
  • To provide consultants such as animal trainers and veterinary surgeons with details of the script, the location or types of film sets and environmental conditions to be encountered.
  • To consult the agency or persons responsible for the removal of animals such as unwanted pets, domestic animals and wildlife from film sets where the presence of these animals may endanger the welfare of other animals on the set
  • To engage an animal trainer for the training, handling and care of animals on the film set. In some situations, additional animal trainers may be required and be complemented by animal handlers under the supervision of an animal trainer.
  • To ensure that all animals to be used are maintained and transported under existing Codes of Practice or conventional management systems that provide proper humane care for each type of animal. Special environmental conditions and facilities for shelter and protection should be provided if required and be kept in a sanitary condition.
  • To arrange for a veterinary surgeon to be present on the set at all times during rehearsal and filming of scenes where the veterinary surgeon consulted by the producer during pre-production planning stages considers there is a risk of distress or injury to animals. Additional veterinary surgeons may be required where warranted by the likely workload when large numbers of animals are involved or where animals are to be used on sets at different locations.
  • To complete formal contracts specifying fees payable by the film company for services provided by animal trainers and veterinary surgeons, including veterinary attention for distressed, sick and injured animals. Written agreements should also be obtained from owners of animals supplying animals for the veterinary surgeon present to administer treatment if their animals become distressed, sick or inured on the set.
  • To authorise all care and treatment deemed appropriate by the Veterinary surgeon present on the set to be administered and to be responsible for all fees incurred in such treatment.
  • To provide communication systems to enable urgent information to be conveyed quickly: facilities for holding, restraint or examination by the veterinary surgeon and transport or arrangements for evacuating sick or disabled animals from remote locations or where access is difficult. In the absence of mechanical equipment manual assistance from maintenance staff should be provided where large animals need to be moved for examination and treatment.
  • To ensure that actors have training and experience in advance with the type of animals to be used on the set.
  • To forward to the Bureau of Animal Welfare within 7 days a copy of any reports from the veterinary surgeon, or animal trainer where a veterinary surgeon is not present, of events in which the welfare of animals on a film set was at risk.

Responsibilities of Animal Trainers and Veterinary Surgeons

For the purposes of this Code the responsibilities of animal trainers and veterinary surgeons are set out in this section.

  • The animal trainer and veterinary surgeon should liaise regarding the care and management of animals during preparation, rehearsal and filming.
  • Sites for film sets should be inspected prior to each day's rehearsal or filming by the animal trainer and safety supervisor, and veterinary surgeon where required to be present on the set, to identify hazards, obstacles, or environmental conditions which may injure animals and people wording with these animals.

The animal trainer should:

  • use only animals that are fit and healthy, training methods that do not involve cruelty, and equipment or gear that. does not cause distress, pain or injury
  • ensure animals under their care are under adequate control to prevent attack, aggression or escape, and make special arrangements for the care of young animals
  • provide proper care including adequate food and water, daily exercise or exercise as required for animals kept under confined conditions, sufficient rest especially for animals that are not accustomed to conditions on the set, prompt first aid or arrange for veterinary attention when necessary
  • inspect all animals on the set prior to and at the conclusion of each session of rehearsal or filming and be present on the set during these sessions
  • remove animals from the set or provide sufficient protection when special effects likely to cause fright are used.

The veterinary surgeon:

  • should be responsible for treatment or humane destruction deemed necessary for any animal that is sick or injured on a film set, for the provision of all drugs and equipment necessary for treatment, and for the prevention of disease amongst animals used on film sets
  • employed on a film set where there are scenes that pose a risk to the welfare of animals should report in writing regarding compliance with this Code of Practice to the producer within 7 days after the conclusion of filming.

The veterinary surgeon, or animal trainer if a veterinary surgeon is not present, should:

  • give instructions to the first assistant director regarding the use, care, treatment and welfare of animals on a film set, particularly where filming is to be interrupted
  • withdraw immediately from rehearsal or filming any animal which becomes sick, distressed, injured or in danger of injuring itself
  • examine animals when filming is completed, treat or arrange for treatment of sickness and injury where necessary, and return animals to normal conditions as soon as possible
  • investigate situations and advise the first assistant director and safety supervisor when film production personnel or animal handlers are unsure of animal welfare or the safety of people on a film set because of animals
  • notify the producer in writing within 24 hours of any situation on a set where the welfare of animals was at risk and give details of action taken
  • the veterinary surgeon or animal trainer employed on a full-time basis should not leave the film set or take part in rehearsal or filming unless suitable arrangements are made and persons with appropriate experience and qualifications are present.

Approved by the Deputy Governor in Council, 20 September 1988 - Lawrence A Fisher, Clerk of the Executive Council

Page last updated: 07 Feb 2024