Two cases of bird flu have been confirmed in Ireland in recent weeks and the Department of Agriculture has informed poultry flock owners that they are now required to confine all poultry and captive birds in their possession.

These birds must be confined in a secure building to which wild birds, or other animals do not have access, the Department of Agriculture has announced.

The control measures are regulated by the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, of which Regulation 3 of the Avian Influenza Regulations says that persons who have poultry or captive birds in their possession or under their control must take all reasonable steps to confine the birds in a secure.

Where this is not possible,  they must take measures to confine them in such a manner that they do not have access to other poultry or other captive birds or wild birds.

A spokesperson for the Department said this is a penal provision to which section 36 (4) (b) of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 applies.

Section 36 (4) (b) states that contraventions of Regulation 3 constitute an offence, and on summary conviction a person is liable to a class A fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both.

“Alternatively, on conviction on indictment, a person is liable to a fine not exceeding €250,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or to both,” the Department spokesperson confirmed.

The spokesperson added that the Department of Food and the Marine will be carrying out risk-based checks on confinement on bio-security measures adding that there will be no cross-compliance implications for farmers who fail to adhere to the regulations.

The actions of a few could jeopardise a whole industry

IFA National Poultry Committee Chairman, Nigel Renaghan said he is fearful that flock owners who fail to keep their birds indoors will do damage to the poultry sector in Ireland.

He added that these birds will be the first to get avian influenza.

It’s reckless of these people to keep birds outside. The motive may be good but the reality is devastating.

Renaghan said that actions of a few could jeopardise an entire industry and it could have a huge effect on Ireland’s ability to export poultry products if an outbreak occurred in a commercial flock.