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Animal Welfare

To learn more about reporting an animal welfare concern, please visite the website for the Vermont Humane Federation.

Questions regarding the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's role in animal welfare cases should be directed to the Animal Health Office.

Click on one of the links below for more detailed information about each topic:

Non-commercial Livestock

The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets' Animal Health Section must be consulted by humane or other law enforcement officers in cases of alleged animal welfare violations that involve livestock and poultry species. Title 13 of the Vermont statutes requires that this consultation occur prior to the time that a humane agent brings any enforcement action against an owner of a livestock animal. This consultation with the Agency is required because under Vermont law, animal cruelty laws may not apply to certain acceptable livestock and poultry husbandry practices.  It is the Agency's legal responsibility to provide guidance to the law enforcement community.  The Agency's Animal Health Section personnel are available to assist humane and law enforcement agents for purposes of determining if a situation represents an acceptable husbandry practice. However, Animal Health Section personnel do not have any enforcement authority in alleged cases of animal welfare violations.

Commercial Dairy Farms

Animal Health Section personnel may also work closely with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's dairy inspectors to provide welfare-related technical assistance to owners and managers of commercial dairy farms that are otherwise regulated by the Agency. In the event that this technical assistance does not result in an acceptable outcome, the state veterinarian may refer the case to a humane agent for further investigation and enforcement action if deemed necessary.

Companion Animals

Animal Health Section personnel inspect pet shops on a yearly or complaint driven basis. If an animal welfare violation is observed during an inspection, a referral will be made to the humane agent with jurisdiction of the municipality where the business is located for investigation and enforcement action if deemed necessary.

Sheep Care

The well-being of sheep is an important consideration for all sheep producers. For information on how to care for sheep, health management, sheep handling, and disease prevention programs, please refer to the following links.

Livestock Care Standards Advisory Council

In 2009, the Vermont legislature authorized the formation of the Vermont Livestock Care Standards Advisory Council (LCSAC). This body, comprised of 14 members and Chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, is tasked with advising the Secretary of Agriculture and the legislative committees on agriculture on issues relating to livestock well-being in the state of Vermont. The Council is also authorized to engage in educational and outreach initiatives meant to improve the welfare of Vermont's livestock animals.  The Council created outreach materials that outline best management practices for transporting cattle and calves and that have been disseminated to Vermont producers, licensed livestock dealers and transporters, and auction markets.  These materials will help to ensure all Vermonters are utilizing best management practices when engaging in livestock transport. 

Since its inception, the LCSAC has provided recommendations to the legislature on issues such as bovine and equine tail docking and the use of swine gestation crates in Vermont. Additionally, the Council has provided information to the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association's member veterinarians on the Veterinarians' Role in Animal Welfare Investigations. The LCSAC generally meets quarterly. All meetings are public and follow applicable Vermont regulations and laws pertaining to public meetings. Please contact Dr. Kristin Haas to obtain copies of meeting minutes.

LCSAC Position Statements

Interested in serving on the Council?

  • Apply for a position on the Council appointed by the Governor
  • Inquire about open positions on the Council appointed by the Speaker of the House

Cattle/Calf Transport Recommendations

Cattle and calves are routinely transported into, out of, and within the state of Vermont for many purposes, including show, exhibition, sale and slaughter.  The care of cattle and calves on the farm directly impacts the welfare of those animals during transport, and it is incumbent on all persons involved in livestock transport to ensure that best management practices are followed on the farm of origin, while on the road, and at the point of delivery.  Ensuring the safe and humane transport of Vermont cattle and calves will protect their well-being, improve the economic bottom line of Vermont's livestock producers and businesses, and protect the integrity of the Vermont Brand.  Please review the Vermont Livestock Care Standards Advisory Council's Transportation Guidelines for Cattle and Transportation Guidelines for Calves in order to become familiar with these important best management practices. Other formats, including palm cards, tri-fold brochures and fact sheets, as well as Spanish translated materials may be obtained by contacting Dr. Kristin Haas

Body Condition Scoring 

While there is no one standard by which to judge animal welfare, body condition score (BCS) can be used to approximate if an animal is maintaining a healthy amount of weight. Nutritional needs vary over the course of an animal’s life. A lamb will need more calories per pound than a sheep. A pregnant or milking goat will eat more than a non-milking goat. A racehorse will have more muscle and less fat than a pasture pony. A BCS approximates if an animal is underweight, overweight, or just right for their species, breed, and use. Keep in mind, that too much weight can be a sign of harm as well! The Vermont Livestock Care Standards Advisory Council has published a brochure for those investigating animal welfare allegations explaining the basics of the BCS system and providing resources on how to evaluate livestock and poultry. Please note, that while different species have their own system, not all breeds of that species can be evaluated by the same metrics. A beef cow and a dairy cow use energy very differently and should not look the same when considered an ideal weight. If you would like more information about BCS and how evaluate livestock and poultry, you can download the brochure or view it here online.