Proposals to require all poultry keepers to officially register their birds have been launched by the government as part of efforts to tackle avian influenza.
The new rules would apply to all keepers, no matter how many birds they have. At present only those who keep 50 birds or more are required by law to do so. They would also be required to update their information on an annual basis.
By registering their birds with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), keepers will ensure they receive important updates such as any local avian influenza outbreaks and information on biosecurity rules to help protect their flocks from the threat of avian influenza.
This will enable the government to communicate with bird keepers quickly, to manage potential disease outbreaks, such as avian influenza, and limit the spread.
The new rules would cover owners of backyard flocks, birds of prey and pigeon fanciers, but would not affect pet birds kept entirely inside a domestic dwelling, such as a parrot or budgie kept in a cage indoors which never leaves the property other than to visit a vet or another short-term period.
In a joint statement the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales said: “These proposals will enable us to have a full picture of the number and location of birds kept across Great Britain and make it easier to track and manage the spread of avian disease.
“This information will also help inform future risk assessments and maintain our commitment to continually building our extensive avian influenza research portfolio.”
British Poultry Council Chief Executive said: “We welcome this consultation as a means of ensuring the GB poultry register is fit to support Government and industry efforts in mitigating the ongoing impacts of avian influenza. Registering your poultry is an effective way of monitoring and controlling the spread of disease to protect the national flock. We, as ever, urge all poultry keepers to remain vigilant for signs of avian influenza in their birds.”
The consultation proposals take forward the recommendation from the 2018 Dame Glenys Stacey Review and lessons identified from the 2021/2022 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 outbreak and previous HPAI outbreaks.
Bird keepers will need to provide information including their contact details, the location where birds are kept and details of the birds (species, number and what they are kept for).
A 12-week joint GB-wide consultation will run until 31 May.