Bird keepers are now legally required to keep their flocks and pet birds indoors as government steps up efforts to limit the spread of Avian Influenza.
Commonly known as bird flu, the disease circulates naturally in wild birds so when they migrate to the UK in winter they can pass the disease on to poultry and other domestic birds.
The new housing measure came into force on Monday 29 November and follows a number of confirmed outbreaks and the introduction earlier this month of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain.
Under the prevention zone, bird keepers were already legally required to follow strict biosecurity rules to help protect their flocks, such as regularly disinfecting equipment, and to promptly report any suspect cases, in England, to Defra’s Rural Services helpline on 03000 200301.
In a joint statement the UK’s four Chief Veterinary Officers said they had not taken the decision on housing lightly but “taking this action now is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”
Residents and visitors have also been reminded to report, and not to touch or pick up, dead or sick birds they find while out and about enjoying Kent’s great outdoors.
Mike Hill, Kent County Council (KCC) Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “As we do every year, we are keeping a close eye on the situation.
“The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reassured that the risk to the general public’s health is very low and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) assures properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
“But we do want to remind people that should they find dead swans, geese or ducks or other wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, they should report them to the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77.
“This reporting helps the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) understand both how avian flu is distributed geographically and in different types of bird – so people’s calls do count.”
In the event of an outbreak in Kent, KCC Trading Standards would work closely with the APHA to ensure measures and restrictions in place are followed to protect public and animal health – and enforce the legislation.
Head of Kent Trading Standards Steve Rock said: “Good housekeeping is an essential defence against bird flu and key to limiting its spread.
“People who have over 50 birds are also legally required to register but anyone who keeps poultry, even as pets, should sign up so they be contacted in an outbreak.”
For the latest avian flu situation visit, details of the latest restrictions and guidance for both keepers and members of the public, visit: www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu