The ABTA Animal Welfare Guidelines basic welfare requirements and unacceptable practices

Unacceptable practices

ABTA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines lists activities have been classified as unacceptable, as defined by evidence supplied by experts:

1.    Unacceptable practices involving animals in captive attractions 

  • Animal breeding or commercial trade in sanctuaries and orphanages 
  • Any tourist holding of, or photo opportunity with, wild animals where the animal does not have the choice of terminating the interaction or moving away
  • Performances or tourist interactions involving wild animals where training involves punishment or food deprivation, causes the animal fear, injury or distress, or the tasks are not based on normal behaviour 
  • Tourist contact or feeding elephants without a barrier 
  • Elephant shows or performances for tourists
  • Tourist contact, feeding of and “walking with” wild cats 
  • Tourist contact or feeding of crocodiles or alligators 
  • Tourist contact or feeding of great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, bonobos) 
  • Tourist contact or feeding of bears 
  • Tourist contact or feeding of sloths
  • The feeding of animals with live vertebrate prey
  • Canned hunting
  • Ostrich riding (observing or participating)
  • Unlicensed zoos 
  • Euthanasia, unless carried out by a trained professional because welfare needs cannot be met, or because the animal cannot be released into the wild
  • Acquisition of any CITES Appendix I, II or III listed species except for conservation or rescue/rehabilitation purposes
  • The manual for cetaceans (aquatic mammals, such as whales, dolphins, porpoises) is still under review, but tourist contact or feeding of orca, and unsupervised tourist feeding of cetaceans are unacceptable.

2.    Unacceptable practices involving animals in cultural events and activities

  • Animals used for begging (for example, dancing bears, snake charming, primates). 
  • Bear pits 
  • Tiger farms. 
  • Any animal fighting, whether against humans or other animals.
  • Bull running. 
  • Rodeo events that include calf-roping, teamroping, steer wrestling, bareback horse/bull riding using flank straps, wild-cow milking, wild horse racing or horse/steer-tripping.
  • Ritual animal slaughter as part of the tourism experience.

3.    Unacceptable practices involving free-roaming wild animals

  • Unregulated animal and plant collection from the wild 
  • Human-initiated contact with and feeding of animals in the wild
  • Trade and sale of endangered wildlife products 
  • Trophy hunting.

Basic welfare requirements

Basic welfare requirements for animals managed and/or dependent upon human beings

Application of and adherence to these basic welfare requirements, as structured within the Five Domains framework (see below), will ensure a basic level of welfare and that is essential in striving to provide animals with a good quality of life. The four physical and functional domains of Nutrition, Environment, Physical Health and Behaviour combine to result in the animal’s Mental State. 


1. All animals have unrestricted daily access to adequate and clean drinking water in line with their species-specific needs1

2. All animals are provided access to food that is adequate in quality, amount and variety for the species, the captive environment and the individual animals’ needs. Feeding routines should be species-specific, mentally stimulating and encourage natural behaviours.


3. In captivity, enclosures are environmentally complex, including natural substrate, structures, shelter and environmental enrichment, in order to encourage a normal and diverse behavioural repertoire. All animals should be able to access shelter and a climatic environment suitable for their species specific needs and seek privacy from view.

4. In captivity, enclosures are clean, hygienic, free of excessive artificial noise such as visitor or
speaker noise, and well maintained (for example, devoid of excessive faeces, urine or rotting food,
litter, not waterlogged, not infested with vermin etc.)

Physical Health

5. The facility has access to a vet, either employed or externally contracted, who is knowledgeable and experienced in the health and welfare of the relevant animals.

6. There is a policy not to surgically modify the skin, tissues, teeth or bone structure of animals, and not to sedate animals, unless it is for the purpose of genuine medical treatment or improved welfare, and always under the guidance of an appropriately trained vet.

7. Complete, accurate animal stocklists, veterinary records and any appropriate licences or permits should be up-to-date and available for inspection. The required paperwork should be in place for all animals.


8. In captivity, enclosures (including pools) or methods used to contain the animals for temporary
periods, allow all the animals to move and exercise freely, and to maintain sufficient distance
from other animals in case of conflict.

9. Depending on their species-specific and seasonal needs, animals should have the opportunity
to interact regularly with other members of their species. Animals should not be prematurely
separated from their young.

10. Any training of animals should never involve punishment or food deprivation.

1. Working animals should have regular access to clean drinking water while at work and unrestricted access to water when at rest. Example of species-specific need: aquatic animals and some reptiles get their required hydration through their food only.

Additional basic welfare requirements for businesses with working animals

1. Tethering or hobbling during an animal’s non-working period should be for a limited time only (see species-specific guidance in Section 5 of the Working Animals manual). When tethered, the animals should be able to walk, lie down and stand up without putting tension on the tether, and reach basic resources like food, water and shade. If hobbles are used, they should join the two front legs, the straps should be lined and regularly greased, be adjustable and have a quick-release mechanism. All tethered or hobbled animals require a high degree of supervision.

2. Young, pregnant, nursing, injured, ill, distressed or elderly animals should not be ridden, or be required to carry/pull loads. Equids (for example, horses, mules, donkeys and zebra hoofed mammals) should not be worked before they are three years old; camels should not be ridden before four years. Weaning should not be conducted for horses, donkeys and mules before six months and for camels not before four months. In all cases, it is preferable for weaning to occur naturally.

3. Equipment should fit, be comfortable, not cause distress or injury, and be in working order (for instance, tyres properly inflated on a working cart). It should be
cleaned and dried after use. Equipment should be removed during rest periods and when the animal is eating or drinking.

4. Animals should train and work within their physical capabilities. Loads should be appropriate for the animal’s size and ability, body condition and fitness level (for example, not more than one person on an equine or camel, but equally, a 150kg person should not ride a 150kg donkey), work should not be in the hottest part of the day and animals should have regular rest periods each day of at least an hour between working periods.

5. Effective and regular shelter should be provided for working animals both in resting and working environments to avoid heat or cold stress.

the five domains

The Five Domains 

ABTA’s Animal Welfare guidelines (2019 edition) and its supporting guidance manuals build upon the principles of the extended Five Domains Model (developed by Mellor & Beausoleil (2015), originally based on the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s Five Freedoms (FAWC 1979)) and the Welfare Quality® criteria.