The Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland and Wales have agreed to bring in new measures to help protect poultry and captive birds, after a number of cases of avian influenza in both wild and captive birds in the UK were discovered.
The new housing measures, which will come into force on 14 December, mean that it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.
Government Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging bird keepers to use the next 11 days to prepare for new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and where necessary put up additional housing.
These housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity regulations that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Protection Zone (AIPZ) on 11 November. The AIPZ means that all poultry and captive bird keepers need to take extra precautions, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-essential people on their sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.
A joint statement from Great Britain’s three Chief Veterinary Officers said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.
“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from 14 December onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”
The NFU has joined the call, urging all poultry keepers to put in place appropriate measures to house their birds. NFU chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony said: “Due to a number of confirmed Avian Influenza cases, the introduction of these new housing measures is a logical next step to best protect poultry.
“These new measures mean that every poultry keeper, whether you have one hen in the garden or a large poultry business, must house their birds indoors and I would urge everyone with poultry to take these measures seriously.
“It’s crucial that everyone remains vigilant and reports any signs of disease in their birds at the earliest opportunity.”
The UK Government has worked closely with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions will be applied across the whole of Great Britain.