Diseases Legislation

The Diseases of Animals Act 1966 consolidated existing legislation and animal diseases. The legislation was updated in 2001 and was repealed by the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.

The legislation was supplemented by an enormous quantity of animal health legislation emanating from the European Union.  Much of that is dealt with separately in the section under EU directives on various matters.


The legislation applies to animal and poultry diseases and to diseases specified respectively in the schedule to the legislation.  Animals cover and include cattle, goats, cats, dogs, horses, sheep, swine, other ruminant animals, and a range of other rodential and related animals.

Poultry covers turkeys, domestic fowl, ducks, geese, partridges, pheasants, doves, pigeons, swans, peafowl and certain other birds, including parrots and related species.

Any animals, birds or things landed by way of import in contravention of the Act may be dealt with in accordance with The Customs Acts.  They accordingly may be forfeited, and subject to penalties in the manners set out in the legislation.

Classes of Diseases

Class A and Class B diseases include cattle plague, foot and mouth disease, sheep-pox, swine fever, mange, rabies, anthrax and Newcastle’s disease. Class B diseases include Bovine Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, warble fly infestation and sheep scab. The schedule to the legislation was amended from time to time.

A range of diseases were prescribed as notifiable by the department.  There are different categories of modifiable conditions for the various animal and poultry groups. Some diseases are notifiable generally and some relative to the particular animals.  If the relevant disease is suspected or confirmed, it must be notified to the department.

Powers to Control Disease

The Minister was empowered to take certain steps for the purpose for eradicating diseases including

  • securing and regulating isolation of land and premises.
  • prohibition and restriction of movement in and off the land of animals or poultry suspected of being affected
  • securing regulating, cleansing and disinfecting premises
  • removal of litter, fodder, dung,
  • exclusion of birds and animals therefrom,
  • securing, regulating cleansing, disinfecting vehicles, places, pens dressings and receptacles used for animals and poultry.
  • securing regulating of repair and reconstruction of houses, prescribing modes of cleansing and disinfection.
  • prescribing markings of animals,
  • prescribing and regulation, seizure, detention and disposal of diseases and suspected diseased animals carcasses, eggs, exposed or kept in contravention of an order
  • prescribing liability for owner, consigner or consignee of animals, poultry carcasses or eggs in relation to expenses connected with seizure, detention and disposal.
  • securing a proper supply of water and food to animals and poultry during detention
  • prescribing and regulating destruction, burial disposal and treatment of carcasses of  – diseased animals and poultry or so  suspected
  • prohibiting or regulating digging up of buried carcasses
  • prescribing and regulating disinfection of clothes and persons coming into contact with animals,
  • use of precautions against spreading of disease
  • prohibiting, regulating or restricting the sale, use and movement of any kind of fodder, litter, or material whereby disease might be spread
  • prescribing regulating treatment of diseases of suspected animals or poultry
  • prohibiting exposure for sale and exhibition or the export of diseased in  suspected animals and birds, other than in accordance with licence
  • prescribing and regulating treatment to be applied to any land, for the purpose of preventing or checking disease control or eradication.
  • requiring, prescribing and regulating, taking of samples of any types from animals and poultry etc.
  • requiring prescribing or regulating or prohibiting injections into substances with a view to carrying out tests to establish or confirm the existence of disease
  • requiring or regulating any other tests for the purpose of establishing or conforming disease
  • prohibiting tests or allowing tests only on licence
  • requiring vaccination of animals or poultry.
  • prescribing in relation to any disease that  persons cannot engage in the business of dealing in animals or poultry unless authorised by a licence.

The Minister may provide the forms of declarations method of publication and the effect consequences and duration of the declaration in relation to disease and infection.


Orders may be made in relation to infected places and areas including

  • prescribing and regulating the publication of the fact of the declaration prohibiting the movement of animals and poultry in and out,
  • prescribing isolation and separation of animals and poultry,
  • prohibiting and regulating removal of carcasses, eggs, litter, utensils, pens hurdles and other things.
  • prescribing and regulating burial, disposal and treatment of carcasses, eggs, fodder, utensils, dung and other things.
  • prescribing and regulating disinfection of infected areas.
  • prescribing and regulating disinfection of clothes of persons in an infected area.

A person having charge of animals or poultry in an infected place may affix near the entrance of his building or farm a notice forbidding persons to enter.  In this case it is unlawful to do so.

Slaughter and Compensation

The Minister may arrange for slaughter of animals and poultries affected by class A diseases and animals which have been in the same field, shed, place, herd or flock or in contact or suspected of being in contact.

The Minister must make arrangements for compensation for loss of slaughtered animals.  This does not apply to a cat or dog suspected of being affected with rabies.  The Department may reserve for observation, treatment or testing, any bird or animal liable to slaughter.

Where any animal or bird has been slaughtered at the direction of the Minister, the carcass belongs to the Minister and shall be disposed of, at its direction.  If the carcass is sold for more than compensation paid, the excess is to belong to the owner.

The Minister/Department may use the ground and property owned by the owner for burial where it is suitable for the purpose of any common or unenclosed land.  Where no such ground is available, another convenient place may be used.

Disease Orders

In the case of class B diseases, the Minister may make disease orders

  • declaring an  area, termed a clearance order, to be in an area in which the disease is to be eradicated or
  • declaring an area about  which the Minister is satisfied that the disease is virtually non-existent as in a tested or disease-free area.
  • prescribing conditions under which animals or poultry may be exported on designated ports, aerodromes and routes for export.

An order in relation to a clearance area, attested area or disease-free area may authorise the taking of possession by agreement or compulsorily of animals or poultry affected or suspected of being affected with the relevant disease. That may include

  • provision for secure and regulating the isolation and maintenance of the animals or the poultry pending  being taken into possession by the Minister.
  • provisions in relation of securing and regulation, isolation and testing of animals and poultry.
  • prohibition and restriction in movements in and out of the area.
  • securing and regulating records in relation to the animals and poultry
  • providing for production and inspection of records
  • providing for failure of compliance with requirements of any such notice including taking of possession of animals and poultry and the disposal together with the costs of the same when the  notice was not being complied with.
  • carrying out requirements of a notice and recovery of costs where the same is not being complied with.

The Minister has to pay compensation for animals and poultry taken possession of, under the provision.

The Minister may give public notice of an intention to designate a clearance area.  Where notice is given, the Minister may pay compensation for animals and poultry in that area having failed to pass the test for the disease approved by the Minister who are slaughtered by arrangement with the Minister or owners of the animal.

The Minister may set up and maintain registers for class B diseases of attested or  disease-free herds or flocks of particular animals or species. A person shall not hold out a herd or flock that is being attested or disease-free  unless it is either entered in the appropriate register or is a disease-free herd or flock situated in attested area or a disease-free area.  Similarly, no animal or bird may be held out as attested or disease free unless it is of a herd or flock entered into the appropriate register or is a disease-free herd or flock situated in attested disease or disease-free area.

An authorised officer may make examinations, take tests and samples as may be prescribed.  They may enter land for the purpose of the same.  They may require a person in charge to give assistance and instructions as may be reasonably necessary for such purpose. An authorised officer is an inspector, or a veterinary surgeon authorised by the Minister for such purpose.

Various Powers

The Minister may make regulations for the persons requiring measures for the prevention of sheep scab.  This may require dipping or the use of some other remedy.

Local authorities may provide portable dipping tanks or dipping places together with necessary materials and appliances.

Local authorities may be obliged to enforce and execute and enforce the disease of animals legislation.  If they fail to do so the Department of agriculture may make appropriate orders employing persons to enforce in lieu.  In such an event part of the expenses may be recoverable from the local authority.

The Minister may make orders directing local authorities to slaughter animals and poultry and destroy carcasses where there is a disease or a suspected disease under such  conditions as may be prescribed.  Compensation must be paid.  Local authorities are obliged to publish notices and other instruments which the Minister directs them to advertise and publish.

The Department may by order make provision for compensation for loss of animals which are slaughtered and removed in the context of disease prevention.  Forms of application or provisions for compensation by agreement or by a valuer in default may be provided.  Provision may be made for the settlement of disputes by arbitration.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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