Animal Health Act 1981

Applies to England  Applies to Scotland  Applies to Wales

Title: Animal Health Act

Category: England, Wales and Scotland Law

Date: 1981 (amended 1998, 2005)

Reference: (Amendments 1998 [Full text], 2005/3475 [Full text])

General Description:

This act, amended by the Animal Health and Welfare Act 1984 and the Animal Health Act 2002, empowers ministers to pay for the veterinary services of livestock farmers who participate in ministry approved codes of practice for keeping stock in general good health. They have power to regulate cleansing of market places, areas where stock are sold or bought, yards, sheds, stables etc., and also equipment used to carry animals. In addition they have the power to regulate the disinfection of clothes of anyone in contact with / working with diseased animals. Ministers have power to prohibit / regulate movement of animals & animal products (including carcasses). This applies both nationally, and internationally. If a suspect animal is quarantined, prior to export, and slaughtered in the quarantine station, no compensation is due.


Upon discovery of a diseased animal, that person must separate that animal from others not affected, and notify the local police. In order to prevent disease spread, it may then be necessary to treat any animal or bird which may have come in contact with the diseased animal or be in an infected area, with serum or vaccine or both.

The government has powers to authorise culling of suspected animals, erection of fences or barriers, and to regulate the disposal of consequent carcasses. The occupier of the land must be informed. The government also has the power to order the destruction of diseased wildlife, if this is thought necessary to eliminate the disease in that area. The Nature Conservancy Council will be consulted prior to this. Again, the government will be responsible for the disposal of the carcass, and also for informing the occupier prior to destruction. In cases of diseased animals where human health may be at risk, the owner is legally obliged to be 'upfront & truthful'.

Any animal with suspected infection of any of the following diseases:

Cattle Plague; Pleuro Pneumonia; Foot and mouth disease; Swine fever; Diseases of poultry

is subject to special provisions laid out in schedule 3 of the order, and may be slaughtered.

Welfare & export

Ministers have the power to order, where they deem necessary, that animals in transit have proper ventilation, food and water, and protect them from unnecessary suffering. To this end, persons may be required to provide information concerning the destination of an animal, and arrangements for the safe passage of such an animal.

Export of horses other than ponies is an offence unless the animal has been examined just prior to departure by a veterinary inspector appointed by the ministry for that purpose. Other conditions are that the animal can be exported without cruelty and is capable of being worked without it suffering.

Pertinence to Agriculture: Livestock, Health, Welfare

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