The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 updated and consolidated the wide range of animal health laws relating to both domestic and farmed animals. It repealed a wide range of legislation ranging from cruelty to animals legislation, treatment and slaughter of farm animals, livestock, diseases of animals legislation.
An animal under the legislation covers the entire animal kingdom other than human beings. Farm animals under the legislation are those herded or kept for the production of food, wool, skin, fur or feathers, or used in, or for the purposes of, breeding, sport or farming land.
It includes bovine, ovine, porcine and caprine animals, equidae, Cervidae, bees and poultry. A protected animal is an animal kept for farming, domestic or sporting purposes when in the possession of a human being and s not living in a wild state.
The legislation re-enacts the disease of animals’ legislation. See the separate section on the Disease of Animals Act. This legislation is intended primarily for the protection of farming animals against various diseases. It contains significant controls, powers to prevent disease and particularly to deal with disease outbreaks. These measures are largely reenacted by the legislation.
The legislation in relation to the disease of animals is supplemented by a large body of statutory instruments and European Union regulation. See separately the sections on that subject matter. A person who has farm animals under his possession or control must having regard to the animal’s nature, type and species, development and environment, take all reasonable steps to ensure the animal is unable to stray from the land or premises where it is kept.
The diseases to which the legislation is subject, are set out in the Act. They may be amended and extended from time to time by the Minister. The legislation lists almost 100 animal diseases.
The Minister may make a disease eradication order in respect of the State or part of the State. This follows the pattern of the existing legislation. There are a number of offences and obligations designed to prevent, restrict and minimise the spread of animal disease.
Buildings, gates, fences, walls, hedges, and other barriers must be constructed and maintained in a manner that minimises the risk of straying, the risk of spread of disease from the land and the risk that the animal will damage flora or fauna in its environment. Regard may be had to shared boundaries or commonage.
Persons may not without lawful excuse, damage or interfere with a building, gate, hedge, boundary wall or fence, used to contain a farm animal. A breach is an offence.
Where a person having possession or control of a farm animal fails to comply with the above and the person is not the owner, then the owner is also deemed to have committed an offence unless he shows that he took all reasonable steps to ensure that necessary measures were taken in compliance with the above obligation.
A person shall not wilfully, recklessly or negligently transmit disease or introduce a new disease agent, or cause or permit another to do the same to an animal or onto any land. A person may not carry out a process or cause or permit another person or administer a substance to an animal, which may interfere with a test or cause symptoms that may be confused with a disease or mask a disease or a disease agent.
A person may not other than in accordance with a permit issued by an authorised officer, has in his possession or control, supply, sell, import or export an animal, product or feed to which a disease or disease agent has been transmitted, or a substance has been administered which may interfere with a test, or cause confusion of symptoms in breach of the above obligation.
A permit may be issued by an authorised officer of the Department. Animal medicines may be in lawful control or possession of another when done under the Irish Medicines Board, Animal Remedies Acts, by vets or doctors etc.
In a prosecution for the above offences, it is a defence to show that that the defendant took all reasonable precautions and measures including those prescribed under regulations to prevent the introduction of or minimise the spread of the disease.
Where animal, land or premises are affected by disease; the Minister may publicise the fact or location of the relevant premises, the identity of the person having ownership or control or in charge of the land, bio-security measures that may be applied, restrictions and any other information which he may deem appropriate in the public interest.
The Minister may levy charges known as an animal health levy as prescribed by regulations to meet the costs of disease prevention, control and eradication. Levies may be charged as regards milk received for processing, animals received for slaughtering and animals exported from the states.
The level of levy may be prescribed with reference to species or type of animals or milk. Different rates may be prescribed. A person may not attempt to export or export an animal life from the state unless he has paid the requisite animal health levy and does so in accordance with regulations.
The regulations may provide for
- issue of invoices, including electronic invoices,
- prohibition on export except under conditions,
- payment and receipt of the levy by electronic means,
- keeping of records and returns for the purposes of the levy,
- prescribing persons obliged to keep records,
- prescribing period of retention of records,
- the production of records,
- maintenance and assistance of vouching the amount of levy due.
Contravention of the obligations as prescribed in the regulation is an offence.
An animal health levy is payable in the case of an exported animal by the person by whom or on to whose behalf it is being exported, on the day of export. In the case of a slaughtered animal, it is payable by the holder of the registration for the slaughterhouse on the day of slaughter or in the case of milk by the person receiving it.
The person by whom the levy is payable shall not later than 30 days commencing on the end of the calendar month in which the above occurs, make a return of the levy due and make the requisite payment. Sums due may be recoverable as a debt due.
A certificate by the Minister of the amount due is admissible as evidence of the liability. A person by whom the levy is payable must keep full and true records of all transactions. They must be retained for three years. Contravention is an offence.
The Minister may direct that the animals be killed, or carcasses, feed or other things destroyed where in the Minister’s opinion
- it is affected by a disease or disease agent,
- it is suspected as being so infected,
- it is at risk of being so infected,
- it is a disease agent,
- because it has a genetic makeup particularly susceptible to disease or disease agent,
- because it is, has or may have been in contact or exposed with an animal, or animal product or feed as above,
- because its killing or destruction is necessary for preventing the risk of spread of disease or a disease agent, or diagnosis or control of a disease or disease agent thereon
- because it is not identified in accordance with EU animal and welfare regulations either because it is unlawfully brought into the State,
- because it is being unlawfully exported,
- because it is required under animal health and welfare regulations under EU law to be accompanied by a licence or certificate and is not so accompanied,
- because its killing, destruction or disposal is necessary to safeguard or enhance animal welfare or protect public safety.
The Department is to direct the manner of destruction or disposal as thought appropriate. The costs in the latter cases, (relating to non-identification, unlawful entry or non-holding of a licence) may be recovered as a debt by the Department from the person in whose possession or control the animal was.
Where the costs are to be recovered, particulars are to be given and representations are to be received in respect of the proposal to charge the cost. The costs may be deducted from the sums due by the Department of Agriculture to the individual concerned.
The Minister may pay compensation to the owner of the farm animals other than an animal affected with rabies, killed or destroyed under the above-mentioned power (unlawful, lacking licence etc.). In the case of other grounds of killing, compensation would normally be payable.
Compensation may be applicable to animals or animal products or feeds. Compensation is applicable if the farm animal, animal product or feed or other thing is affected with a disease or a disease agent or is killed or destroyed to alleviate the risk of disease, or prevent its spread or to diagnose, control or eradicate the disease.
Compensation is not to exceed the open market value less any salvage value or payment under an insurance policy. It is not to be duplicated if equivalent compensation or payment is available under EU disease regulations.
The amount of compensation is to be ascertained and assessed by a valuer or arbitrator. The Minister may appoint a valuer with the requisite experience and knowledge in valuing farm animals and products. The owner of the farm animals, products etc. must cooperate with the valuer. The valuer is to be independent in the performance of his functions. Guidelines may be issued in relation to the valuation of farm animals, or products or feed. The valuer must have regard to these guidelines in making a valuation.
The killing, destruction and removal of farm animals and products as above is to proceed notwithstanding that the matter of valuation or compensation has not been agreed or determined.
The Minister may make regulations providing for methods of assessing valuation, reference periods to base the valuations, manner of assessment of compensation, criteria to be taken into account and other appropriate matters. The above provisions may provide for a second valuation in accordance with regulations.
If the Department or owner, are dissatisfied with the valuations, they may within 14 days request the matter to be referred to arbitration under the Arbitration Act.
Where an animal dies before being killed, the Minister may pay compensation having regard to the balance to be struck between the public good and the requirement to pay compensation, whether it is reasonable or fair to taxpayer to be liable for the compensation, and the value of the animal.
Refusal of Compensation
The Minister may provide by regulation that compensation or part compensation is not payable
- in respect of a particular type of breed or class of animal.
- where the killing destruction relates to particular diseases,
- for particular activities,
- for particular methods of husbandry.
The regulations may provide for limitation of the eligibility for compensation for particular types of farm animal feed, or farm products.
The Department may refuse or reduce compensation if in its opinion, the owner
- failed to take reasonable measures to alleviate the disease, spread of disease or disease agent,
- failed to take appropriate biosecurity measures prescribed in animal health and welfare legislation,
- failed to comply with in a material way with codes of practices,
- obstructed or impeded, or failed to give assistance to authorised officers,
- gave false information in an application or previous application.
- has contravened legislation, animal remedies legislation or EU legislation on animal remedies, feed and product.
Compensation may also be refused if the person had imported farm animals, products or feed in contravention of any legislation.
Where a person is convicted of an offence under animal remedies legislation or equivalent EU legislation relating to an animal, animal product or animal feed or other thing killed or destroyed or that dies before being killed, he is not to be entitled to compensation in respect of the feed, product or thing to which the conviction relates.
Control of Disease
The Minister may make regulations in relation to animal health and welfare dealing generally with the enhancement of health and welfare and in particular with the control and eradication of disease. Regulations may control and prohibit specified uses or activities in relation to animals, animal products, feeds or husbandry or the keeping, moving, transportation, sale or supply of an animal.
Regulations in relation to disease control may provide for
- notification of the existence or suspected existence of the disease,
- the provision of treatments by veterinary practitioners and others
- isolation, segregation, treatment, cleansing,
- disposal of animal, animal products, feeds, vessels, equipment etc.,
- submissions of animals and animal products for testing,
- requiring the testing of animals, animal feed and animal products.
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