CPLPortfolio Guidebook

, "28":"Animal health In this feature l ACTSO analysis l statutory responsibilities l Defra support The future of animal welfare The UK needs to look ahead in the field of animal health, warn Wendy Martin and Stephanie Young I n the wake of the horsemeat scandal and the recent Elliott Report into the integrity and assurance of food-supply networks it is often overlooked that the start of any food chain is on a farm. Here, on a daily basis, local authority officers have a statutory responsibility to ensure compliance with animal health and welfarelegislation. Statutory returns to parliament* show that convictions from prosecutions by local authorities (LAs) have quadrupled over the past four years from 37 in 2010 to 150 in 2013. It is evident that there isan increase in non-compliance within the industry. Over the summer, the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers (ACTSO) and the National Animal Health and Welfare Panel (NAHWP) conducted a survey of LAs. The aim was to establish their current animal health and welfare capacity, and the work being undertaken to secure compliance, and to support businesses in the current financial climate. The key findings were: Some local authorities continue to consider animal welfare to be a high priority, while others no longer investigate such matters LAs resources have reduced, on average, by 45 per cent since 2011. This has had a significant impact on animal health and welfare work. In England, the government changed the funding for animal health services, from 8.5million of direct funding to 2.4 million as part of the Revenue Support Grant. This, alongside local cuts, has placed immense resource constraints on LAs, and has had a major impact on how animal health services are operated. The Welsh Assembly is also due to remove its direct funding for the framework agreement for Welsh authorities, as of 31 March 2015 l There is a decreased visibility of officers in the field, and a shift from pro-active to reactive enforcement l The delivery of animal health and welfare enforcement is no longer driven by the voluntary framework agreement LAs will take into consideration the national element, but will prioritise work according to local risks. This leadsto variations in the types of animalhealth and welfare work being carried out l Resource constraints are impacting on decisions made by LAs about which statutory and non-statutory duties they undertake. Prioritisation of complaints, and intelligence-led working models, have become normal operating practice in all LAs l High-risk inspections continue to be delivered at unchanged levels. Proactive inspections of medium- and low-risk businesses have decreased significantly l While LAs offer business advice, 40per cent either now charge or areconsidering charging for advice andguidance l LAs continue to provide valuable input when high-profile issues are detected for example, illegal pet imports, or the horsemeat crisis l Some LAs continue to consider animal welfare to be a high priority, while others no longer investigate suchmatters l The Animal Movement Enforcement System is not widely used because of variable levels of data inputting l Disease control is seen as a priority forLAs. High-risk animal gatherings and markets are still attended at effectivelevels l Resources available to LAs to combat a disease outbreak will depend on the severity and nature of a disease, and the duration. The majority of LAs would have sufficiently experienced staff and employees from other service sectors that they could call on for a minor or shortterm disease outbreak. However, capability beyond this would be limited in the present climate l Since 2013, some national coordination for LAs is now undertaken by ACTSO, funded by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). This role becomes more crucial as local resources are put under strain l In light of lessons learned from the BSEcrisis, foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks, and the recent horsemeat scandal, the impact on the UK of threats of animal disease and the risk to UK trade from international food-fraud crimes is significant. The essential role, and appropriate resourcing, of LAs animal health and welfare services remains crucial l LAs animal health and welfare functions are susceptible to further cuts l Further resource reductions will result in weaker support for compliant businesses, and the potential for greaterinconsistencies when tackling non-compliant businesses l With local decision-making influenced by a number of external factors including the report from the Independent Farming Regulation Task Force, and the Smarter Working Initiative and a reduction in resources, there is a decreased visibility of officers in the field, which has led to an increase in reactive, rather than proactive, enforcement. This highlights the need for good intelligence, and adoption of the National Trading Standards Intelligence Operating Model. With evidence from the survey showing there has been a loss of experienced staff and cuts of 45 per cent to local government animal health services, greaterfocus needs to be placed on the use of intelligence, and coordinated enforcement between regulators of animal health and welfare. However, at present, very little intelligence is being captured nationally compared with other regulatory services. The NAHWP comprised of representatives from LAs across the UK, TSI, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, multiple government agencies, and Defra policy officers has been able to identify priority areas where, it believes, value can be added to the work of LAs if information is fed into intelligence systems (see box, Key priorities, right). The work of the NAHWP is crucial in highlighting emerging trends, which the profession needs to address. Such assessments give a national and regional steer on the prioritisation of work at a local level, and can influence central government policy on animal health matters, particularly those relating to disease control. At present, Defra is providing funding tosupport a coordinated approach to animal health by local authorities until March 2016. This work is carried out viaACTSO, which supplies a part-time policy officer, Abi Goddard, and support from senior officers in the event of an outbreak. It also contributes secretariat support for NAHWP, and this has resultedin the redrafting of the Local Authority National Contingency Plans for Exotic Animal Notifiable Diseases, toassist with emergency preparedness. The plans are due for release this month, with positive feedback from the consultation. This vital work allows authorities to adopt and adapt the plans for use at a local level, while following a regional and national steer to combat and control a disease outbreak effectively. Further workstreams have been identified, in the hope that future funding may be available to support this vital coordination role. Key PRIORITIeS The National Animal Health and Welfare Panels identified areas of priority are: l Illegal imports and landings of animals in contravention of the pet travel/ rabies rules l Illegal movements of livestock, particularly with a focus on bovine tuberculosis l Animal welfare, including companion animals, with a particular focus on transport l Horse movements/fly-grazing and horse-passport irregularities l Illegal slaughter of animals * Made in accordance with the provisions of the Animal Health Act 1981. Credits Published You might also like: Wendy Martin director of policy at the 25 November, 2014 Tangled enforcement web November 2014 Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers Stephanie Young chairman of the National Animal Health and Welfare Panel and TSI lead officer for animal health Images: Mediagram / Shutterstock To share this page, click on in the toolbar TS TODAY "