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UPDATE: Avian Influenza - New rules for catching up and how they affect you

13th January 2023

On Monday 9th January 2023 the National Avian Influenza Protection Zones (AIPZ's) that cover England, Scotland and Wales, were amended to include new mandatory requirements for those who catch-up gamebirds (pheasants, partridges or ducks). In England and Wales catching-up is legal until the end of the shooting season on 1 February. In Scotland, it is legal until 28 February. The catching-up of any birds is illegal after these dates.

All birds that are caught up must be quarantined in a building or top netted-holding pen that eliminates contact with wild birds. This is to be for a minimum of 21 days after the last caught-up bird was introduced, before being moved to a new premises, shoot, game farm, or location other than where they were caught up. In all cases, accurate up to date records of all catching-up activity must be kept and must be available on demand to APHA/DEFRA. In Wales there is an additional requirement for all keepers of captive birds to complete a Self-Assessment checklist, which can be found here.

Once caught up, previously wild birds are classed as poultry and will be subject to the same rules and regulations as other kept birds. Therefore, all relevant requirements under the relevant AIPZ must be complied with when dealing with caught-up birds. In England and Wales this includes mandatory housing measures in addition to the quarantine requirements.

The answers to some frequently asked questions can be found below.

Q. Why must caught-up birds be held for 21 days?

A. To reduce the likelihood of Avian Influenza being spread by caught-up gamebirds that are being moved to another location. This is in line with many other disease control and prevention policies. 21 days is deemed long enough for any presence of infection, even if only in one or two birds, to spread to other birds in the flock, and become noticeable.

Q. What happens if I wish to move birds from my premises before the 21-day period is up?

A. You will need to apply for a license from the relevant authority in your home country. However, it is unlikely that this would be granted unless there was an essential reason to permit such movement.

Q. Can I still catch up if I am in a 3km Protection Zone (PZ), a 10km Surveillance Zone (SZ), or a 3km Captive Bird Monitoring Zone (CPBZ)?

A. Yes, but you cannot move caught-up birds off your premises until the zone has been lifted, and you are no longer in a restricted area. If any part of your premises is in one of the disease control zones then the whole premises is deemed to be in that zone. You can check if you are affected by any of the disease control zones by looking at the APHA interactive map here. Click on the search icon in the top left corner and enter your postcode to see your exact location on the map.

Q. If my premises is not affected by any disease control zones (PZ, SZ or CBMZ) and I catch-up birds and observe the new quarantine requirements, can I then move the birds to a new location inside a disease control zone?

A. Such a movement will need a licence from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). The granting of a licence will be at the discretion of APHA and will depend on a range of factors, mostly centred around biosecurity and record keeping on the site of origin, and the site of destination.

Q. If Avian Influenza (AI) was found in wild birds either on our shoot or nearby, can I still catch-up?

A. There is no law preventing this, but common sense suggests that it will be very risky. DEFRA, Scottish Government and Welsh Government are all strongly advising keepers not to catch-up if they are in an area known to have, or have had, AI.

Q. What happens if caught-up birds are infected with AI?

A. Once caught up, previously wild birds are classed as poultry / captive. If they contract AI, your premises will become an Infected Premises (IP) and be treated like any other IP. All birds on site will be culled and restrictions will be placed on the premises.

Q. Do I need to complete the Poultry Register for caught up birds?

A. It is a legal requirement to complete the register if you keep 50 or more captive birds for any period of time, and this includes gamebirds. You can find more details, and register, here. You should also sign up for poultry alerts which will provide early details of any suspected or confirmed cases.

Q. What other precautions should I be taking?

A. The AIPZ's which affect the whole of the UK requires keepers of birds to observe specified standards of biosecurity. Enhanced standards apply for keepers of more than 500 birds. Once birds have ben caught-up they become captive birds, and the keeper of those birds is subject to the mandatory obligations placed on them by the AIPZ. You can find details of the AIPZ for England here, for Wales here, and for Scotland here.

13th December

Defra has launched a new online reporting system to report dead wild birds in Great Britain, as part of the response to the ongoing avian influenza outbreak. The new online system will be available to use 24/7, making it simpler and quicker for the public to report dead wild birds. It will not replace the Defra helpline, which will remain in place.

They have advised that in Great Britain members of the public should use the new online reporting system or call the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77) if they find one or more dead birds of prey (such as an owl, hawk or buzzard), three or more dead birds that include at least one gull, swan, goose or duck or five or more dead wild birds of any species. APHA and their contractors then collect some of these birds and test them to help us understand what risk posed to poultry and other captive birds is through understanding how the disease is distributed geographically and in different types of wild bird, not all birds will be collected.

The new system can be accessed here.

8th December

Through our contacts in government, we have been made aware that the European Commission has announced their intention to consider (among other things) changing their surveillance requirements for imported poultry eggs and birds from Disease Control Zones, from a minimum of 90 days to a minimum of 30 days for international trade with all third (non-EU) countries. If this proposal was to be approved and adopted, and if the government made a reciprocal change, this has the potential to alleviate some of the problems experienced by our sector this year due to the Avian Influenza outbreak in France, should such an outbreak occur again in the future. However, we are currently unable to say whether these changes will be approved, or how long such changes would take to be implemented. We will of course, let you know as soon as we have more information.

30th November

New mandatory biosecurity and housing measures for all poultry and captive birds in Wales are to be introduced on 2nd December, following a decision by the interim Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales.

The introduction of biosecurity and housing measures comes after surveillance of avian influenza suggests a heightened risk of disease for Wales over the winter months.

Bringing Wales in line with current guidelines in England, from this date it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors or otherwise separated from wild birds. Keepers must also complete and act upon a bespoke biosecurity review of the premises where birds are kept. This is to minimise the risk of virus entry in bird houses, which usually results in high mortality. These new measures are in addition to those in the Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, which remain crucially important.

Bird keepers are encouraged to prepare for the introduction of the new measures, by making sure housing is suitable, with the housed environment enhanced to protect bird welfare. Keepers should consult their vet for advice where needed.

A copy of the biosecurity checklist can be found here.

31st October

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds are to be introduced to all areas of England from 00:01 on Monday 7 November, following a decision by the United Kingdom's Chief Veterinary Officer.

The housing measures legally require all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow stringent biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the disease, regardless of type or size.

The order will extend the mandatory housing measures already in force in the hot spot area of Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Essex to the whole of England following an increase in the national risk of bird flu in wild birds to very high.

The addition of housing measures to the AIPZ already in force across England means all bird keepers across England must:

  • housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
  • cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control
  • keep records of mortality, movement of poultry and poultry products and any changes in production
  • thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
  • minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds
  • prevent access by poultry to ponds and watercourses and ensure that birds are kept in fenced or enclosed areas

18th October

It is incumbent on the shooting community to play its part in helping to reduce the spread and impact of the current outbreak of Avian Influenza. To this end, we, alongside our partners in Aim to Sustain, have created this useful Q&A to help all in the shooting world understand how they can reduce the possibility of spreading AI through their activities. This is not an exhaustive list and will be updated as the situation evolves. It should help most people ensure their activities minimise the chances of spreading AI. It is vital that the shooting community continues to behave responsibly.

It can be accessed here.

17th October

Following an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds and on commercial premises, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.

This means that from midday on Monday 17 October, it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the threat of avian flu.

Biosecurity guidance and a biosecurity self-assessment checklists have been published on each of the GB administration's website to assist all bird keepers in instigating and maintaining good biosecurity:

28th September

There are reports of game birds being infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) by other wild birds, particularly gulls and wildfowl, in several areas across England and Wales. It is important to stress that these cases are isolated, however it is of the utmost importance that strict biosecurity measures are adhered to by those involved in the management of game.

Game shooting has already been hugely affected by the spread of HPAI in the UK, this year facing a shortage of poults and eggs from France that has already proved devastating for some. Of concern is the longer-term impact that shooting brings to biodiversity and habitat creation, as if investment is not made into the associated land management practices, the environment will suffer.

The latest advice can be found here.

16th August

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has now been lifted in England. The latest information can be found here. Although this is very good news, it is still important that thorough bio security measures are followed as Avian Influenza is still present in the UK.

25th April

The mandatory housing measures for poultry and captive birds, which were introduced across the United Kingdom to help stop the spread of bird flu, will be lifted from 00:01 on Monday 2 May 2022, the Chief Veterinary Officers have confirmed today.

Poultry and other captive birds will no longer need to be housed, unless they are in a Protection Zone, and will be allowed to be kept outside. While the risk of bird flu has been reduced to 'medium' for premises with poor biosecurity, the enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will remain in force as infection may still be circulating in the environment for several more weeks. All poultry gatherings will remain banned.

Those who intend to allow their birds outside are advised to use the upcoming days to prepare their outside areas for the release of their birds. This will include cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.

The UK has faced its largest ever outbreak of bird flu with over 100 cases confirmed across the country since late October. Scrupulous biosecurity is the most effective method of disease control available and all bird keepers should apply enhanced measures at all times to prevent the risk of future outbreaks.

The AIPZ will remain in force across the UK, with only the housing measures component being lifted from Monday 2nd May. This means all bird keepers (whether they have pet birds, a commercial sized, or a backyard flock) must be diligent in continuing to take effective and precautionary biosecurity measures. These include: cleansing and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles; limiting access to non-essential people on their sites; and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering and when leaving bird enclosures. Bird keepers must continue to look out for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.

Adrian Blackmore, the Alliance's Director of Shooting, said: "The lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, some of whom have had to keep their birds indoors since 21 November last year. Biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe, and it is vital that bird keepers remain vigilant for any signs of disease, and maintain stringent standards of security at all times."

It is therefore extremely important that bird keepers:

  • cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – and if practical use disposable protective clothing.
  • reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control.
  • thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points.
  • minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds.

Defra is encouraging all bird keepers to register their flocks with the Animal and Plant Health Agency. For poultry this is a legal requirement if you have 50 or more birds (poultry includes chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigeon (bred for meat), partridge, quail, guinea fowl and pheasants). In Northern Ireland, this applies to all birds except those kept within your home. Registration forms are available here or by contacting your local DAERA Direct Regional Office. If registered, you will be contacted and informed of any action that is required should an outbreak of Avian Influenza occur near you.

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