The advice sheets below have the latest information on animal health and welfare. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Regulatory Services option).
In the guide
The importance of contingency planning in minimising the impact of a livestock disease outbreak
This guidance is for England
A 'disaster' is an event that exceeds local capacity to deal with it, whilst an 'emergency' is an unforeseen or sudden occurrence that demands immediate action. An outbreak of a serious animal disease such as foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza or rabies may fit into the definitions of both a disaster and an emergency.
The effects of an outbreak can have serious implications in terms of movement restrictions and the killing of a large number of animals. There are also human impacts resulting from potential zoonotic diseases (for example, rabies) in terms of post-exposure management and supportive medical treatment.
The greater the likelihood and/or impact of a disaster or emergency, the greater the need for contingency planning.
What is contingency planning?
Contingency planning may be defined as a mechanism for anticipating, and thereby proposing responses to, unexpected and unintended events and emergencies. It is founded upon the risk and anticipation of possible scenarios, the expected consequences (perhaps based upon experience), preparation to mitigate these consequences, and post-event reconstruction and restitution. Effective contingency planning has to balance the costs of planning for possible scenarios against the likelihood of those events occurring and the severity of impact.
The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 reflects the role of local authorities (and central Government) in providing civil protection at a local level and places a statutory duty on them to maintain emergency plans for events or situations likely to cause serious damage to human welfare and the environment - for example, animal diseases.
The Animal Health Act 1981 places statutory duties on local authorities in relation to animal disease outbreaks. This role is focused on preventing the spread of notifiable livestock disease and so limiting the effect of the disease on humans, animals and the environment.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes owners and keepers of animals responsible for ensuring that their welfare needs are met and creates an offence for a responsible person to cause or allow an animal to suffer unnecessarily.
Some legislation affecting livestock keepers refers explicitly to contingency planning. For example, the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 require provisions to be made in the case of failure of automated or mechanical equipment essential for the health and well-being of animals. EU Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations requires those applying for long journey transport authorisation to submit contingency plans in the event of emergencies.
More information on the legal responsibilities of livestock keepers during disease or non-disease emergencies are laid out in the codes of recommendations for the welfare of livestock available on the GOV.UK website.
What happens in a disease outbreak situation?
In a disease outbreak or emergency, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has well-documented contingency plans for how it and its agencies (within central Government), its operational partners (including local authorities) and the farming community are expected to respond. The plans detail arrangements for dealing with, controlling and eradicating disease. The plans aim to:
The latest version of the contingency plan is now generic, meaning that it is a single simplified document providing a clear overview of the response to disease outbreaks and incidents and detailing the preparations for an operational response.
In an animal disease outbreak Defra is likely to be the lead Government department (LGD) (but it is not limited to Defra). Defra, together with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), are directly responsible for both local and national disease control, and the animal health and welfare response.
The tactical response is coordinated through a national disease control centre (NDCC) appropriate to the level required to handle the outbreak or incident. The NDCC brings together policy functions provided by the LGD with operational functions provided by APHA and other operational partners such as local authorities.
At the operational level APHA establishes the local disease control centres (LDCC), which are headed by the regional operations director. The LDCC coordinates and implements the disease control operation to ensure that all the relevant bodies and stakeholders are involved. The LDCC follows tactical direction and policy guidance set out in the relevant disease control strategies, contingency plans and operational instructions.
In line with their responsibilities under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, local authorities will also prepare contingency plans to take account of local conditions and resources. This is usually undertaken by the emergency planning service within your local authority and individual plans are available to the public.
For more information on specific diseases please see our individual animal disease guides.
The latest national generic contingency plan for animal diseases can be found on the GOV.UK website.
Contingency planning for farmers
One way to protect your livestock, business and income is to plan ahead and make contingency plans. In a disease outbreak situation or incident, local authority personnel and other officials will advise you on the situation but you may find that putting your own plans in place (in accordance with any current legal constraints) is essential. It is advised that you take the following steps:
Advice to livestock keepers during a disease outbreak situation or incident
There are a number of things you can do in a disease situation and whilst many of these things will depend on the type of disease and local factors, the following are some key points to follow regardless of the disease:
Last reviewed / updated: November 2018
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.