Natural horse products—know your responsibilities

The APVMA has become aware of a growing number of veterinary chemical products for use on horses that claim to be ‘natural’, ‘organic’, chemical-free’ that are not registered with the APVMA. All products that fit the legislative definition of a veterinary chemical product need to be registered or otherwise authorised by the APVMA.

The number of complementary medicines and natural products available for horses in Australia is growing in line with the increasing size of the horse industry, which is estimated to contribute more than $8 billion per year to the economy1. To help protect the estimated 1 million horses in Australia2, producers, suppliers and users of natural horse products need to be aware of their responsibilities and what can legally be used in Australia.

Risks associated with the supply and use of unregistered veterinary chemical products include risks to businesses supplying the products and risks to the animal patient's health.

Suppliers of unregistered veterinary chemical products can face financial penalties as well as liability and potential reputational damage. The use of unregistered products on animals may have unintended effects and may negatively impact the animal.

Business owners have a responsibility and a duty of care to customers and animals to ensure that veterinary chemical products they promote and supply, including those with natural and/or ‘man-made’ substances are registered with the APVMA. If you are a supplier of veterinary chemical products and are unsure if a product is registered, contact the APVMA.

To have confidence that the products you are supplying are safe and effective when used, ensure they have been registered by the APVMA.

How to tell if a product is registered

All products registered by the APVMA include an APVMA or NRA approval number on the product label. 

You can also search our chemical database which contains the records of all registered agricultural and veterinary chemical products.

How to tell if a product requires registration

The definition of a veterinary product is broad and inclusive; both natural and ‘man-made’ substances are likely to be regulated in Australia by the APVMA if they are promoted for use in or on animals.

Some veterinary chemical products can clearly be identified as needing to be registered. For other products however, it is not so clear-cut.

In simple terms, veterinary products requiring APVMA registration include (but are not limited to):

If you are unsure if a product requires registration with the APVMA, or to report any suspicious or unregistered products, please contact our compliance and monitoring team at compliance@apvma.gov.au or phone 1300 700 315.

If you are the owner of a product, or are considering importing a product that may be available overseas, we encourage you to complete the self-assessment tool to find out if the product requires registration in Australia. Most products for use in or on horses do require registration. If the self-assessment tool shows that your veterinary chemical product needs to be registered, you will need to apply for APVMA registration.

Refer to what we regulate for more information. 

The risks of importing, supplying and selling unregistered veterinary chemical products

When it comes to caring for their horse, your customers expect a veterinary chemical product will be safe and effective, i.e. the product works as claimed and will not harm their horse.

APVMA registration gives your product users assurance of safety and efficacy.

Manufacturing, importing, possessing, supplying or selling an unregistered veterinary chemical product in Australia is, unless otherwise authorised, illegal. These laws apply to all products that meet the definition of a veterinary chemical product as prescribed in the Agvet Code.

The dangers of supplying or promoting any unregistered ‘natural' horse product go beyond breaking Australian laws. Products that should be registered but aren’t, can have harmful effects on treated animals, can fail to deliver the benefits they claim, may result in damage to a business reputation and could lead to legal action by individuals or businesses who purchased the product from you.

Follow these simple steps to protect your business and your customers:

  1. Be wary of therapeutic claims that aren't backed up by Australian regulatory approval
  2. Flip the pack and check the back for the APVMA approval number
  3. Drop the product name into PubCRIS, APVMA’s online database for registered products. Note overseas versions of APVMA registered products are also considered to be unregistered products – see importing information below
  4. Don’t stock unregistered veterinary chemical products
  5. Contact the APVMA if you think a product may be unregistered

What to look for if you are importing products

Beware of importing products that are approved for use in another country, as a product with an overseas label is not equivalent to a similar product that may be approved for use in Australia.

To see if a product is registered, check the label for an APVMA or NRA approval number or search PubCRIS, our chemical database, which contains the records of all agricultural and veterinary chemical products that are registered for use in Australia. If you are still in doubt, contact the APVMA or the owner of the product (information on registration holders is also available in PubCRIS).

What happens if you sell an unregistered product

Manufacturing, importing, possessing supplying or selling an unregistered veterinary chemical product in Australia is, unless otherwise authorised, illegal.

Under Australian law financial penalties can apply to proven contraventions, including fines for anyone selling an unregistered veterinary chemical product in the Australian marketplace.

What to do if you think a product for sale should be registered and doesn't appear to be

If you have bought or are stocking a product that you think should be registered but doesn't appear to be, contact the APVMA compliance and monitoring team at compliance@apvma.gov.au or phone 1300 700 315.

Reports of non-compliance are confidential and help ensure potentially unsafe products do not continue to be offered in Australia. 

Source: https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/01-083 (link is external)

2Source: https://www.asqa.gov.au/sites/g/files/net2166/f/Strategic_Review_Report_2015_Training_in_equine_programs_in_Australia.pdf (link is external)

Resources

Buying and selling natural horse products fact sheet

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