Identification of animals

A legitimate permanent mark is the first line of defense against stock theft. In South Africa the law provides for an effective animal identification system.

The Animal Identification Act (Act 6 of 2002) renders the marking of stock compulsory. The is helps the industry and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to combat stock theft and recover stolen livestock more easily. It is, however, evident that most people and institutions trading in livestock do not comply with the regulations of the relevant legislation – thus they do not meet the basic requirements to combat stock theft.

Many stock theft court cases have to be struck off the roll owing to disputes about the positive identification of stolen animals and because ownership cannot be proven. Such disputes could be avoided if animals are marked with a registered brand or tattoo.

Hot iron brands for cattle and tattoos for small stock remain the most cost-effective ways in which to mark these animal groups.

The Animal Identification Act replaced the Livestock Brands Act (Act 87 of 1962). The new Act manages the national register for animal identification marks, serves as a strengthened line of defense against stock theft, simplifies the identification of property and aids tracing of animals.

The animal identification system

The animal identification system (AIS) is the national register of animal identification marks in South Africa. At this stage only the SAPS has access to the system. The AIS is a very user-friendly system that can be used by any official after a short period of training.

This Act applies –

(a) in respect of the animals declared by the Minister by notice in the Government Gazette; and
(b) to the whole of the national territory of the Republic of South Africa.

Enforcement of the Act
(section 2)

The Act applies to the whole country and it is compulsory to mark all cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Legitimate marks have several benefits:

  • visible deterrent – stock thieves are more inclined to steal animals that are not marked
  • positive identification
  • positive proof of ownership
  • more effective policing
  • more effective recovery rate
  • enables tracing.

What is an identification mark?
(section 4)

The Minister must prescribe identification marks in respect of each group of animals to which marks may be allocated in terms of section 5.

An identification mark is any registered mark made or placed on an animal for whatever purpose and that is prescribed by the Minister.

The following marks are exceptions:

  • a mark on the hoof or horn
  • a paint mark
  • a clasp, rivet or tag affixed to the ear
  • a notch or hole.

How to register an identification mark
(section 5)

Application for registration of an identification mark must be made to the registrar in the prescribed manner and be accompanied by the prescribed fee.  If the application complies with the requirements of this Act the registrar must –
(a) allocate an identification mark to the applicant;
(b) register such identification mark in the applicant’s name; and
(c) issue to the applicant a certificate of registration of that identification mark.

  • All owners must apply for a registered identification mark.
  • Forms are available from extension offices, magistrate’s offices, the SAPS stock theft units or the Registrar of Animal Identification.
  • A one-off registration fee is payable – buy revenue stamps from the Post Office to pay for the registration and affix them to the bottom of the form where indicated.

Address the envelope to:
The Registrar: Animal Identification
Private Bag X138

All identification marks must be registered.

  • The registration is placed on the national register of animal identification marks.
  • It could take up to two weeks to register an identification mark

Transfer of identification marks
(section 9)

Any owner of an animal may apply in the prescribed manner to the registrar for the transfer of the registration of an identification mark from the name of any other person to his or her name.

An animal identification mark can be transferred from one stock owner to another. To do this, the new owner must apply for the transfer of the identification mark to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

In the case of death of the legitimate owner, the identification mark may be transferred if the executor of the estate grants permission for the transfer. If there is no executor, the new owner may furnish a copy of the death certificate and a letter of authority issued by the High Court, which declares the new owner the legitimate owner of the animals.

Then follow the same procedure as for the registration of an animal identification mark.

An owner who wants to sell, barter or give away an animal after 14 days of becoming the owner of such animal, must mark the animal with his or her own mark before disposing of it. The owner must also provide the new owner with a document of identification. The new owner must keep the document of identification for a period of one year.