Notifiable diseases affecting farm animals

In common with other living creatures, farm animals are prone to disease. Certain diseases are known as “notifiable diseases” and “specified diseases” and there is a legal requirement that such diseases be reported.

What are the notification requirements?

Requirements under the Animal Health Act 1981

Under section 15(1) of the Animal Health Act 1981 a person who has in his possession or under his charge an animal affected by a disease or suspected to have a disease is required “with all practicable speed” to give notice of that fact to a police constable based in the police area in which the animal in question is situated.

Under section 15(2) of the Act, subject to certain exceptions, a person who knows or suspects that an animal is affected with rabies is required to give notice of that fact to a police constable.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) also requests that any such suspected diseases are reported to the local Animal Health office.

Requirements under the Specified Diseases (Notification) Order 1996

Under the Specified Diseases (Notification) Order 1996 a person who has in his possession or under his charge an animal or carcase which he knows or reasonably suspects is infected with a certain disease (referred to as a “specified disease”) is required “as soon as practicable” to give notice of that fact to the Divisional Veterinary Manager, an inspector or to a police constable based in the police area in which the animal or carcase in question is situated.

This requirement extends to veterinary surgeons and other persons, who in the course of their duties, examine or inspect a diseased or suspected animal or carcase and to persons who are involved in analysing samples taken from animals and carcases.

Which diseases require notification?

Diseases which need to be notified under the Animal Health Act 1981

Since the Animal Health Act 1981 came into force the definition of “disease” has been amended on a number of occasions by various pieces of secondary legislation in response to outbreaks of and the risk of outbreaks of certain diseases. As of the date of this article the definition of “disease” includes the following diseases:

  • African horse sickness;
  • African swine fever;
  • Anthrax;
  • Aujeszky’s disease;
  • Avian Influenza (bird flu);
  • Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE);
  • Blue tongue;
  • Brucellosis caused by Brucella abortus;
  • Brucellosis caused by Brucella melitensis;
  • Cattle plague;
  • Contagious agalactia;
  • Contagious epidydimitis;
  • Contagious equine metritis;
  • Dourine;
  • Enzootic bovine leukosis;
  • Epizootic haemorrhagic virus disease;
  • Epizootic lymphangtis;
  • Equine infectious anaemia;
  • Equine viral arteritis;
  • Equine viral encephalomyelitis;
  • European Bat Lyssavirus;
  • Foot-and-mouth disease;
  • Fowl pest in any of its forms, including:
    • Newcastle disease;
    • Fowl plague;
    • Fowl cholera;
    • Infectious bronchitis;
    • Infectious laryngotracheitis;
    • Pullorum disease;
    • Fowl typhoid;
    • Fowl pox;
    • Fowl paralysis;
  • Glanders and Farcy;
  • Goat pox;
  • Lumpy skin disease;
  • Paramyxovirus 1 in pigeons;
  • Peste des petits ruminants;
  • Pleuro-pneumonia;
  • Rabies;
  • Rift valley fever;
  • Scrapie;
  • Sheep pox;
  • Sheep scab;
  • Swine fever;
  • Swine vesicular disease;
  • Teschen disease;
  • Tuberculosis;
  • Vesicular stomatitis;
  • Viral haemorrhagic disease;
  • Warble fly;
  • All other diseases of animals and birds.

Diseases which need to be notified under the Specified Diseases (Notification Order) 1996

Where there is a requirement to notify under the Specified Diseases (Notification Order) 1996 (as amended) the notification requirement currently relates to the following diseases:

  • African horse sickness;
  • Blue tongue;
  • Brucellosis cause by Brucella Melitensis;
  • Contagious agalactia;
  • Contagious epididymitis;
  • Epizootic Haemorrhagic virus disease;
  • Goat pox;
  • Lumpy skin disease;
  • Peste des petits ruminants;
  • Rift Valley Fever;
  • Scrapie;
  • Sheep pox;
  • Teschen disease;
  • Vesicular stomatitis;
  • Viral haemorrhagic disease.

What are the consequences of failing to report a notifiable disease?

Subject to certain exceptions, it is a criminal offence to fail to report a notifiable or a specified disease.

Requirements to separate diseased animals

Under the Animal Health Act 1981 there is also a requirement that any animal carrying or suspected of carrying one of the diseases to which the Act applies be separated from animals not so affected as far as is it practicable to do so.

Other provisions designed to prevent the spread of disease

The Animal Health Act 1981 gives the Secretary of State the power to order the slaughter of diseased animals and animals which are suspected of carrying a disease.

Under European Law (Council Directive 92/199) animals carrying or suspected of carrying certain diseases are subject to compulsory slaughter and in such cases there are requirements for imposition of protection and surveillance zones around the premises where the disease is confirmed.