Avian influenza (AI), commonly known as bird flu, is a highly contagious viral disease affecting the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous system of many species of birds. It may also pose a threat to people and other animals in certain circumstances.

Current situation (23 February 2017)

Prevention Zone

On 20 January 2017 the Department announced that the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, originally declared on 23 December, will remain in force until 11:59pm on 16 March 2017.  The zone requires the immediate and compulsory housing of domestic chickens, hens, turkeys and ducks, or when this is not practical, their complete separation from contact with wild birds.  For farmed geese, gamebirds, and other captive birds, keepers should take practical steps to keep these birds separate from wild birds. The zone also means extra biosecurity measures for all poultry and captive birds to protect them from the risk from wild birds.  The full text of the declaration describes the list of requirements for bird keepers. Frequently asked questions on the Prevention Zone are available below. Similar Declarations are in place in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

We have taken this action because of the increased risk of avian influenza (bird flu) in the UK. Since the autumn numerous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza of subtype H5N8 have been found in poultry and wild birds in several countries across Europe including GB and the Republic of Ireland.  We are continuing to monitor the situation closely.

Keeping birds indoors reduces the risk of exposure to the virus, but excellent biosecurity is also necessary to keep disease out.  Guidance on biosecurity is available in the links below.  Avian influenza is a notifiable disease and if you suspect it you must report it to your local Divisional Veterinary Office.

An Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) updated Outbreak Assessment for the current situation in Europe is available here.

Bird gatherings

From noon on 23 December 2016, a temporary suspension of gatherings of some species of birds is now in force across Northern Ireland.  This is similar to arrangements already in place in the rest of the UK.

The bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings general licence allows the collecting together of captive birds (not poultry, game birds or waterfowl) from more than one source at one location, while minimising the risk of disease spreading between flocks. The licence allows these bird gatherings to proceed subject to conditions and prior notification to the Local Divisional Veterinary Office.

Any persons holding or attending a permitted gathering must read and adhere to all of the conditions in the general licence and the additional requirements highlighted in the declaration of the Prevention Zone. However, you may wish to consider rescheduling gatherings if it is practical to do so - avian influenza virus can be spread by visitors on their boots, etc.  If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local Divisional Veterinary Office. Frequently asked questions and answers are available below

This licence permits gatherings of captive birds (not poultry, gamebirds or waterfowl), which include:

  1. Columbiformes (including doves and pigeons)
  2. Passerines (including finches, budgerigar, canary)
  3. Psittaciformes (including parrots, macaws, cockatiels)
  4. Falconiformes (including hawks, harriers, buzzards, eagles)
  5. Strigiformes (including owls)

The species of poultry that may not benefit from this general licence and are prohibited in accordance with regulation 6(4)(e) of the Avian Influenza and influenza of Avian Origin in mammals Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007 are:

  1. birds of the family galliforme (including pheasants, partridge, quail, chickens, turkey, guinea fowl)
  2. birds of the family anseriforme (including ducks, geese, swans)
  3. birds that are reared or kept in captivity for the production of meat or eggs for consumption, the production of other commercial products, for restocking supplies of game or for the purposes of any breeding programme for the production of these categories of birds

The precautionary ban on the movement of birds directly from GB to attend bird gatherings and pigeon races in Northern Ireland remains in place. 

Birds that have travelled directly from NI to GB to attend shows/gatherings/races will not be allowed to return directly to NI from these events.  The return of these birds will only be possible on receipt of a specific import licence – please see link below for more information.  Please note that a specific import licence will only be granted for imports from an Avian influenza free area in GB.

The Department will keep this situation under review and subsequently the general licence may be amended or revoked.

Biosecurity guidance

The best defence – as with all exotic animal diseases – is a high level of awareness and good biosecurity.  Poultry keepers and businesses in Northern Ireland are reminded of the importance of maintaining biosecurity in their flocks and being vigilant to any signs of disease in their birds.

We have published a new biosecurity leaflet for all bird keepers and detailed guidance on biosecurity and preventing disease in captive birds and separating domestic birds from wild birds in a Prevention Zone. 

If you suspect any strain of avian flu you must tell your local Divisional Veterinary Office immediately.  Failure to do so can be deemed an offence.

Further information on biosecurity and good practice is available via the links below:

Backyard flocks

All poultry and captive birds, including backyard flocks, must be housed or, where it is not practicable to do so, kept separate from wild birds, to comply with the legal requirements of the Prevention Zones.

We’ve put together this short leaflet to help keepers of small flocks of poultry to look after their birds whilst there is a Prevention Zone in place:

Northern Ireland situation

The Notifiable Epizootic Avian Disease Control Strategy describes how an outbreak of Avian Influenza or Newcastle Disease in Northern Ireland would be managed. Further information can be found at link below.

GB outbreaks

Confirmed cases of avian influenza (H5N8) since start of December 2016:

IP number Date of declaration Description of premises and location
IP1 16 Dec 2016 Turkeys at a farm near Louth, Lincolnshire
IP2 3 Jan 2017 Backyard flock of chickens and ducks at a premises in Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire
IP3 6 Jan 2017 Backyard flock of chickens and ducks on a premises near Settle in North Yorkshire
IP4 16 Jan 2017 Turkeys at a farm in East Lindsay, Lincolnshire
IP5 24 Jan 2017 Commercial flock of breeding pheasants at a premises in Pilling, Preston, Lancashire
IP6 26 Jan 2017 Turkeys at a farm near Boston, Lincolnshire
IP7 27 Jan 2017 Commercial pheasants at a game rearing unit near Pilling, Wyre District, Lancashire
IP8 30 Jan 2017 Commercial game birds at a rearing unit near Pilling, Wyre District, Lancashire
IP9 14 Feb 2017 Commercial Poultry Premises near Redgrave, Mid Suffolk

Further information is available on the DEFRA website and Welsh Government's website.

Trade

Movements into Northern Ireland

All general licences relating to the movement into Northern Ireland of poultry, day old chicks, hatching eggs, ornamental fowl, racing pigeons, captive birds, poultry products, heat treated poultry meat, other poultry meat, table eggs and egg products etc. are revoked.

New specific licensing arrangements are in effect from 9.00 am, Monday 19 December 2016.

Anyone wishing to bring any of the above categories of poultry/birds/products into Northern Ireland or requiring further information should contact the Department’s Trade Section on (028) 90 52 0865 or email tradeadminpost@daera-ni.gov.uk.

Have we banned imports of birds and their products from GB?

From 9am on 19 December 2016, all existing general licences relating to the importation of poultry and hatching eggs, ornamental fowl, racing pigeons and captive birds from GB are revoked. New specific licensing arrangements have been put in place.

For more information on current trade conditions, please see the link below.

Have we banned imports of birds and their products from areas with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza?

In line with EU-wide measures, we have banned imports of live birds and products from the protection and surveillance zones in affected countries which could potentially transmit the disease to other birds. This includes unprocessed feathers, as they might be contaminated with faecal material which can transmit the disease.

For Countries outside the EU (Third Countries), an EU wide import ban on live birds and certain poultry products will be put in place when a Third Country becomes affected by HPAI.

Cause of AI

There are both high pathogenic (HPAI) and low pathogenic (LPAI) forms and many strains.

LPAI does not always show up as disease in birds. However, it is present in some areas of the global wildfowl population.

LPAI can mutate into HPAI, especially when introduced into poultry populations.

Some strains of HPAI spread easily between birds and cause illness, with a high death rate, very quickly in poultry populations.

In rare cases, some HPAI strains can lead to severe illness and deaths in humans usually where there has been close contact with infected birds.

There are a limited number of reported cases of human-to-human spread of AI.

There is a possibility that were an individual to be infected with human and bird flu viruses there may be the potential for the virus to combine and produce a more dangerous variant which could spread from human to human.

The disease is notifiable: if you suspect the disease, you must immediately notify your local DVO.

It is therefore very important to ensure that any outbreak of AI is controlled quickly and that workers and veterinarians in close contact with infected birds are well protected. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has a contingency plan in place to ensure that this is so.

DAERA and key stakeholders are working closely together to ensure that the NI response to current circumstances is proportionate, appropriate and comprehensive. Key stakeholders agree that good vigilance and a high standard of biosecurity are required at the moment.

Clinical Signs

It is important to be able to recognise the symptoms of Avian Influenza.

Typically the disease presents suddenly with affected flocks showing

  • high mortality rates
  • sudden death
  • cyanosis and oedema of the comb and wattles
  • dullness
  • unwilling to move
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress
  • diarrhoea/sneezing/coughing
  • drop in egg production
  • nervous signs

Birds may often die without any signs of disease being apparent. However, there can be considerable variation in the clinical signs and severity of the disease.

For pictures of chickens with clinical signs of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza please see the link below.

If you suspect that your birds have Avian Influenza, you should contact your Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) or local DVO immediately.

Wild Bird Surveillance

Surveillance for avian influenza viruses in domestic poultry and wild birds is carried out in all European Member States.

Wild bird cases

The table below shows findings of avian influenza of the subtype H5N8 in Northern Ireland.

Week number Location Number of findings Species involved Total number of birds testing positive
Week 5 (2017) Mid Ulster 1 Swan, Whooper Swan 2
Week 7 (2017) Mid Ulster 1 Chinese Goose 1

Multiple findings of HPAI H5N8 in wild birds have also been made across GB and the Republic of Ireland since 19th December 2016.

Wild Bird Surveillance Results 2016

Domestic Poultry

The European Commission requires all Member States of the European Union to undertake surveys each year for avian influenza in poultry.

The purpose of this survey is to detect avian influenza (AI) virus infections of subtypes H5 and H7 in different species of poultry and provides valuable information across the EU for an early warning system of H5 and H7 AI infections.Early detection is also essential for effective control.

The flocks that are chosen for sampling are drawn from poultry premises selected at random. The survey includes chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and feathered game classified as poultry. In Northern Ireland, premises are contacted in advance by DAERA staff to arrange a convenient time for sampling. Blood samples are taken from a number of birds on each premises. The samples are then screened for the presence of antibodies to avian influenza viruses of subtypes H5 and H7.

Wild Birds

Wild bird surveillance takes place, as part of the overall UK wild bird surveillance programme.

There are two components to the wild bird survey:

  • screening of wild birds found dead
  • the investigation of unusually high mortality events in wild birds

Targeted screening of wild birds found dead

Species that are considered by experts to be more likely to play a role in the spread of HPAI H5N1 will be considered for laboratory screening. The types of birds that will be considered are gulls, ducks, geese, swans and waders. Generally speaking these birds will have webbed feet, long legs or long necks.

The survey is a strategic targeted survey and not all birds will be collected. The likelihood of a wild bird that is found dead being infected with avian influenza is very small. Dead wild birds are screened because they are a convenient source for sampling and not because their death is likely to be due to avian influenza.

Public Reporting

If you find one or more dead gulls, waders, ducks, geese and swans (webbed feet, long legs or long neck) the DAERA Helpline should be contacted at 0300 200 7840. You will be asked for details of the finding and the location. If you find any other single dead birds, including garden birds, then you do not need to call the DAERA Helpline.

There will be no collection of dead birds at weekends during July and August.

The investigation of unusually high mortality events in wild birds

Monitoring of unusual mortality events or ‘die-offs’ in wild birds is being carried out (these are incidents of unusually high mortality in wild birds in relation to the population size in the area concerned). A number of factors may be responsible for causing a die-off including infectious diseases, adverse weather conditions, poisoning, predation and starvation. This survey is particularly concerned with identifying infectious diseases of wildlife.

If you find 5 or more dead birds of any species in the same place, the DAERA Helpline should be contacted at 0300 200 7840.
Other than swans, gulls, waders, ducks and geese you do not need to report dead birds unless you find 5 or more in one location.

Wetlands Bird Survey

As part of their ongoing Wetlands bird survey over the winter months, Northern Ireland Environment Agency staff along with Non-government organisation partners monitors and report any unusual mortality of wild birds to DAERA.

Further information on AI - FAQs

Once it is present, how is it spread?

Unlike Foot and Mouth disease, AI is not an air-borne disease. AI is spread by movement of infected birds or contact with their secretions, particularly faeces, either directly or through contaminated objects, clothes or vehicles.

How would we control it if it came here?

The Department has a contingency plan for dealing with Avian Influenza outbreaks and this plan is continuously reviewed.

As required under EU legislation, disease control would be by slaughter of infected poultry and dangerous contacts, and the imposition of movement controls around the infected premises.

The disease is notifiable: if you suspect the disease, you should contact your Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) or local DVO immediately you must immediately notify your local DVO.

What precautionary measures should we take against bird flu now?

We advise keepers to:

  • urgently plan how they will house, or otherwise separate their birds, in the case of an emergency
  • ensure that they feed and water birds indoors wherever possible to avoid attracting wild birds onto their premises
  • review their Biosecurity
  • plan ahead for the possibility of other measures being brought in
  • be vigilant

Any further action would have to be based on our risk assessment and be proportionate.

Finding a dead bird - FAQs

If you find one or more dead gulls, waders, ducks, geese and swans (webbed feet, long legs or long neck) or five or more of any species the DAERA Helpline should be contacted at 0300 200 7840.

There will no collections at weekends during July and August.

If you are phoning from Great Britain, please phone the Defra Helpline 08459 33 55 77.

You will be asked for details of the finding and the location. If you find any other single dead birds, including garden birds, then you do not need to call the DAERA Helpline.

If you find more than 1 but less than 5 dead birds and they are not gulls, waders, ducks, geese or swans then you do not need to call DAERA. You should

  • leave it alone, or
  • follow the guidelines for disposal below

Where could I dispose of dead birds and how?

If you have to move a dead bird

  • avoid touching the bird with your bare hands
  • if possible, wear disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling
  • place the dead bird in a suitable plastic bag, preferably leak proof.
  • tie the bag and place it in a second plastic bag
  • remove gloves by turning them inside out and then place them in the second plastic bag. Tie the bag and dispose of in the normal household refuse bin.
  • hands should then be washed thoroughly with soap and water
  • if disposable gloves are not available, a plastic bag can be used as a make-shift glove. When the dead bird has been picked up, the bag can be turned back on itself and tied. It should then be placed in a second plastic bag, tied and disposed of in the normal household waste
  • alternatively, the dead bird can be buried, but not in a plastic bag
  • any clothing that has been in contact with the dead bird should be washed using ordinary washing detergent at the temperature normally used for washing the clothing.
  • any contaminated indoor surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned with normal household cleaner

Will you collect a sick swan/duck or goose?

No, the Department does not have the facility to look after sick birds. Please contact the USPCA or your own vet.

Is it necessary to report deaths in birds kept in outside aviaries or gamebirds?

You should report cases where a number of birds have died within a short time and there could have been contact with migratory waterbirds. You are strongly advised to do this through your private veterinary surgeon. If you or your Veterinary Surgeon suspect AI (or any other notifiable disease) you should contact your local Divisional Veterinary Office who will carry out an investigation.

What should I do if I find dead wild birds near or among my poultry?

Please report these without delay to your local DVO so that we can discuss with you and provide advice on the next steps.

If I ring up, can I be guaranteed that the birds I report will be collected?

Not necessarily. An experienced vet will assess details of the event. A decision will then be taken whether to investigate further, and arrangements will be made to collect the bird carcases. If not, it will be for the owner/manager of the land where the die-off is reported to ensure disposal of the carcases.

Am I at risk from touching dead birds?

Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people. If dead birds are handled, you should always take appropriate hygiene precautions such as wearing disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling carcases. If you don’t have gloves use a plastic bag. You should wash hands, nails and forearms thoroughly with soap and water after handling the carcase.

Prevention Zone FAQs

How long will the measures last?

The Prevention Order is in place until 11:59pm on 16 March 2017. 

What should I do if I can’t house my birds?

The declaration requires any person in charge of poultry and captive birds to take all appropriate and practicable steps to ensure that birds are housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.

It may not be appropriate or practicable for you to house your birds but you should take steps to ensure they are otherwise kept separate from wild birds (such as feeding and watering birds inside, making sure feed stores are protected against wild birds or vermin and removing any wild-bird feeders from the area around your birds).

Bird keepers should speak with their private vets, or their local Divisional Veterinary Office, if they have any specific questions about complying with these requirements.

What birds does this apply to?

The zone applies to all poultry and captive birds, regardless of species.  If it is not practical to keep certain species indoors then other measures should be taken to keep them separate from wild birds.

What happens to free range poultry – do they lose their status?

No. The Department has declared an AI Prevention Zone across the whole of Northern Ireland until 11:59pm on 16 March 2017 and this qualifies free-range producers to house their birds as a preventative measure against the current H5N8 virus circulating in wild birds, without impact on their products’ free range status. This derogation from EU requirements is valid only while the Prevention Zone is in place a maximum of 12 weeks under EU law.

What happens after 16 March 2017?

Under EU poultry meat marketing regulations and EU egg marketing regulations, keepers who are required by Government to house their birds to protect public and animal health can retain their free range status so long as the birds are not housed for more than 12 weeks.  The current extension takes the duration of the Prevention Zone in Northern Ireland to 12 weeks

The 12 week grace period applies to the time of slaughter or laying of the eggs, rather than the time of sale. Therefore, provided birds are slaughtered or eggs laid on or before 11.59pm on 16 March, they may still be marketed as free range.

The 12 week period is to allow the industry time to make contingency plans for the loss of status, if housing is required after the 12 weeks have elapsed.

We are currently considering what happens after 16 March and will issue further guidance in due course.

If this costs me extra money will the Department reimburse my costs?

There is no requirement on the Department to compensate owners for these measures.

Could the zone be lifted early?

The zone would only be lifted before the end date if the risk situation diminishes.

Why has the zone been renewed beyond the original 30 days?

Since the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was originally declared on 23 December 2016, the risk level for Avian Influenza incursions into Northern Ireland has not reduced.  Cases of H5N8 have also been confirmed in poultry in Lincolnshire in England, and Carmarthenshire in Wales, as well as wild birds across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.  In light of this the Department decided that a further zone should be declared lasting until 16 March 2017.

How does this apply to game birds?

Game birds that have already been released are classified as wild birds. Those people that release game birds are no longer classed as the ‘keeper’ of the birds once they have been released.

Where the released game birds continue to be fed and watered this can continue though other wild birds should have had no contact with the feed and water. Commercial feed and fresh or treated water should be used.

If they remain in pens, contact with wild birds should be restricted, for example, through netting, roofing, etc., and they should be fed under a roof to avoid attracting wild birds.

Can I still fly birds of prey?

Yes, although you should minimise contact with wild birds, for example by using/targeting other prey (such as rabbits) where possible. 

Should I cancel shows or events?

Gatherings where poultry, game birds or waterfowl are brought together from different locations are currently not permitted under the bird gatherings general licence – gatherings of other captive birds may continue. Further information can be found on the Bird Gatherings FAQs below.

Do I have to close my farm/should I cancel school visits etc?

There is no requirement to close your farm or stop visits.  However, for your birds’ safety you may want to think about rescheduling  - avian influenza virus can be spread by visitors on their boots etc.  If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local Divisional Veterinary Office.

Can I still exercise my pigeons?

Yes, exercising pigeons is still allowed, but this is being kept under review.

Can I still race my pigeons?

Yes, but for your birds’ safety you may want to think about rescheduling any races or meets, where possible, given the heightened risk of HPAI circulating in wild birds.  If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local Divisional Veterinary office.

Can I take my pigeons to a show in GB and then bring them back to Northern Ireland.

Yes, however the return of these birds will only be possible on receipt of a specific import licence and compliance with the import requirements on the licence, one of which is that the birds cannot attend a show in Northern Ireland for at least 4 weeks.  

Can I still import birds?

Yes.  The only change is that birds should be kept housed once in Northern Ireland.

Does this affect shooting?

Shoots have not been banned in the Prevention Zone. 

Where game birds are already released, they are considered to be wild and there is no restriction.  Birds in pens should be kept separate from wild birds as far as possible.

What is the risk to gun dogs?

We are not aware of any dogs becoming infected with bird flu by retrieving shot wildfowl or gamebirds.

What regulations are in place to protect the welfare of the birds when they are housed?

Animal welfare legislation continues to apply.  Keepers who have welfare concerns should discuss these with their private vet, or local Divisional Veterinary Office

What can I do to keep my birds happy while they are kept indoors?

There are a variety of environmental enrichment options for captive birds, including poultry.  It is important that you consider introducing activities for your birds if they are used to having large spaces to roam, as their welfare is very important.  You could hang objects like old CDs and cabbage or kale leaves from perches or the ceiling of the enclosure for them to peck, or provide foraging items inside like hay, dirt clumps, (non-toxic) weeds or old wood stumps - please ensure these have not come into contact with wild birds or their faeces.  Changing these items when birds lose interest in them will help reduce stress levels and provide mental stimulation for them.

What other biosecurity measures apply within the prevention zone?

In addition to separating birds from wild birds, the declaration requires keepers to, where possible:

  • Keep bird feed and water separate from wild birds
  • Reduce movement of people, vehicles and equipment to areas where birds are kept
  • Take steps to control vermin e.g. filling holes in walls
  • For poultry farmers, cleanse and disinfect all housing and equipment at the end of a production cycle
  • For poultry farmers, provide disinfectant at entry points

It may not be appropriate or practicable to take all of these steps in every circumstance – keepers should discuss their biosecurity arrangements with their private vet or local Divisional Veterinary Office if they have any concerns.

What is the penalty for not complying with the measures in the AI Prevention Zone declaration?

Non-compliance may constitute an offence against the Diseases of Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 1981. Penalties under this legislation can include a fine of up to £5,000 and / or imprisonment. However, the main objective of this declaration is to reduce the opportunity for contact between wild birds and captive birds/poultry.  Keepers need to balance costs against effectiveness.  It is therefore important that you investigate all options open to you and consider their practicality/feasibility of implementing these measures given your individual circumstances.  Please refer to published biosecurity guidance for further help and advice or contact your local vet or Divisional Veterinary Office.

More useful links

Bird gatherings FAQs

Why has the Department banned poultry gatherings?

Following confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) within a domestic flock in the UK and in light of the finding of HPAI (H5N8) in a wild duck in Wales, the Department has reviewed the risk posed by bird gatherings due to the potentially significant consequences of any disease spread at such events. Markets, shows and other gatherings of poultry (including chicken, geese, ducks, pheasants, turkeys and guinea fowl) are banned in Northern Ireland from 23 December 2016 until further notice.

What is a bird gathering?

Bird gatherings are occasions at which birds are brought together for any purpose and includes fairs, markets, shows, sales or exhibitions, races or meetings (for example pigeons).

What bird gatherings can take place?

This licence permits the gathering of captive birds (not poultry, gamebirds or waterfowl), which include:

  1. Columbiformes (including doves and pigeons)
  2. Passerines (including finches, budgerigar, canary)
  3. Psittaciformes (including parrots, macaws, cockatiels)
  4. Falconiformes (including hawks, harriers, buzzards, eagles); and
  5. Strigiformes (including owls)

This list is not exhaustive; if in doubt you should contact your local Divisional Veterinary Office, or private vet, for advice. 

What bird gatherings are banned?

The species of poultry that may not benefit from this general licence and are prohibited in accordance with Regulation 6 of The Avian Influenza and Influenza of Avian Origin in Mammals Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007 are:

  1. birds of the family galliforme (including pheasants, partridge, quail, chickens, turkey, guinea fowl)
  2. birds of the family anseriforme (including ducks, geese, swans); and
  3. birds that are reared or kept in captivity for the production of meat or eggs for consumption, the production of other commercial products, for restocking supplies of game or for the purposes of any breeding programme for the production of these categories of birds.

Game birds that have already been released are classified as wild birds and not covered by these restrictions or requirements.

Should I cancel my show or event?

Provided that no birds of the prohibited species are attending, there is no need to cancel your event.  However, for your birds’ safety you may want to think about rescheduling  - avian influenza virus can be spread by visitors on their boots etc.  If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local Divisional Veterinary office.

I am the organiser of a permitted gathering, what additional measures do I need to take?

If your gathering is still allowed to take place under the general licence (ie only involves permitted bird species), you must make biosecurity advice available to all attendees.  This could include, for example, making printed copies of the Department’s Biosecurity best practice for bird gatherings document.

You must also ensure that a named vet is available for the duration of the gathering.  Ideally a vet would be present but if this is not possible then making your local vet practice aware of the event and having their phone number available is sufficient.

You must have a written contingency plan detailing what actions would be taken if a notifiable disease was discovered at, or near, the gathering.  Your private vet or local Divisional Veterinary office will also be able to help.

In addition the requirements to notify the Divisional Veterinary Office in advance of gatherings, keep a record of attendees, and prevent contaminated materials from entering the gathering, continue to apply.  The text of the general licence sets out the full list of requirements in detail.

Remember that if you suspect that a bird might be suffering from Avian Influenza, or any other notifiable avian disease, you must contact your local Divisional Veterinary Office immediately – failure to do this is an offence.

How will this be enforced? What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Due to the significant potential impact of disease spread we expect a high level of compliance from keepers.  Non-compliance with the general licence constitutes an offence against the Diseases of Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 1981. Penalties under this legislation can include a fine of up to £5,000 and / or imprisonment.

How long will the ban last?

The ban on gatherings of poultry will be in place until further notice.  This is kept under continual review, but current advice from our Veterinary Risk Assessment is that gatherings of poultry at this time present a risk of spread of AI. Once we are content that the risk has reduced sufficiently to allow shows to take place, the ban will be lifted.

Will event organisers be compensated?

No Government is not required to provide compensation as this is a standard measure to prevent the spread of disease.  The default position is that all gatherings have been prohibited since 2006, unless licensed.

What about bird gatherings outside Northern Ireland ?

Great Britain has implemented similar measures and more information is available on their website.

Am I banned from shooting wild birds?

No - the disease risk assessment did not support the introduction of any specific or additional restrictions on shooting wild birds.

What about game bird collections?

The collection of wild game birds is not affected by these measures.

What is a general licence?

Event organisers do not have to apply for a specific licence but must read and comply with a list of general licence conditions. These conditions are also available on request from local Divisional Veterinary Offices, the DAERA helpline Tel: 0300 200 7840 or from the link below.

What do I need to do before arranging a bird gathering?

Advise the local Divisional Veterinary Office (DVO) at least three working days in advance of the event and get a copy of the DAERA General Licence to ensure that you can meet all the conditions included.

Are gamebird shooting parties allowed?

Yes. Game bird shooting parties are not gatherings provided birds aren’t brought together for the shoot from different premises.

What pigeon races are allowed?

Domestic pigeon racing is allowed within Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland under general licence.

Are the rules likely to change again?

The GB authorities have reported Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) of the strain H5N8 in a number commercial poultry premises as well as a backyard flock of chickens and ducks. There have also been multiple incidents in wild birds in GB and in the Republic of Ireland. The Department will continue to monitor the situation.

Measures to help prevent the spread of avian influenza were agreed by the European Commission. Decision 2005/745/EC, allows Member States to prohibit bird markets, shows, fairs and similar events, unless a Veterinary risk assessment considers that these gatherings can go ahead. The Decision permits Member states to authorise such events following this risk assessment.  The NI legislation which was put in place to implement this community rule is the Avian Influenza and Influenza of Origin in Mammals (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2007.

The risk of the spread of Avian Influenza is being kept under continual review, and if, following a veterinary risk assessment, the risk is considered to have increased, measures will be taken to reduce the risk, and this may include tightening the controls on the gathering of birds and extending the Prevention Zone.

Contact details

DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840
USPCA Helpline 028 3025 1000

 

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