VICTORIA - After nearly seven decades on the books, B.C.’s Animal Health Act is getting an overhaul, giving the Province the ability to limit the spread of current and emerging diseases and better respond to potentially disastrous outbreaks.
The Animal Health Act introduced today brings B.C.’s legislation into harmony with other legislation across Canada, and addresses the realities of increasing global travel and trade. At present, there are few disease-management actions that can be taken apart from quarantine of individual farms. The Animal Health Act enables government to respond as needed with modern animal disease management practices such as inspections, seizures, orders, penalties and enacting emergency powers. Six Canadian provinces and territories have modernized their animal health legislation since 2007.
B.C.’s new Animal Health Act:
- Increases the number of reportable and notifiable diseases from nine to about 100, many of which were not known when the act was last substantially revised in 1948. It will now include diseases like rabies and foot and mouth disease, as well as syndromes, infestations and environmental toxins such as lead or dioxins.
- Improve the early detection of animal diseases through expanded monitoring and surveillance programs.
- Require producers to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of introducing and spreading disease; ensure employees are trained to prevent and respond to disease; maintain records of animal origin; abide by inspector’s orders and report any incidents of disease or unusual illness.
- Increase disease control measures such as restricting the movement or sale of affected animals, animal products (such as milk or eggs) or animal by-products such as wool or hides.
- Increase the maximum penalty under the act from $2,000 to $75,000 and create an administrative penalty system for less serious contraventions.
Today’s legislation updates a bill first introduced in 2012, and clarifies there will be no restriction on the general public, including media, from reporting the presence of diseases. The legislation is based on widespread industry, government and public consultation that concluded in 2011.
In order to encourage surveillance and reporting of unusual and undiagnosed animal symptoms and behaviour, the act protects the personal information of farmers submitting samples to the government for testing. Once a reportable animal disease is confirmed, government is obligated and accountable to take specific actions to address health risks, including various levels of monitoring and control measures. The process for informing the public about the presence of diseases such as avian influenza, infectious salmon anaemia and bovine spongiform encephalopathy does not change.
B.C. is home to one of Canada’s foremost animal and plant testing laboratories. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Animal Health Centre diagnoses more than 5,000 samples for animal diseases annually and is one of only three Canadian labs accredited as a Veterinary Diagnostic laboratory by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.
Minister of Agriculture Pat Pimm ─
“Farmers are the front line of defence against animal diseases and the first to notice signs of illness on their farms. This bill is based on a co-operative approach to managing disease, allowing for confidential collection of data so government and farmers can work in partnership and make decisions that will prevent animal diseases from occurring, and to identify animal diseases quickly when they occur. At the same time, it safeguards against uninformed reaction to false-positive tests.”
Minister of Health Terry Lake ─
“The Province needs the ability to take action quickly in the case of an outbreak and this legislation provides it. Technology and international trade have changed dramatically in the last seven decades, and the Animal Health Act brings our disease management and response abilities into modern times.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall ─
“Modern and effective animal health legislation is very much part of creating the best possible environment for human health. The Animal Health Act gives needed measures for preparation, surveillance and response to animal health issues.”
BC Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon ─
“The Animal Health Act helps ensure the health of animals on our ranches and the safety of the food on our plate. Knowing that we have developed the best plan possible in this modernized act will give us the ability and confidence to expand the markets for B.C. beef in Canada as well as our growing export markets.”
BC Pork Producers Association president Jack Dewit ─
“The Animal Health Act reflects how critical it is to today’s farmer that government and industry have the best possible disease surveillance and response plans in place. The legislation also ensures the flow of information from the farm to the public is accurate, so our customers can continue to enjoy B.C. ribs, bacon, ham and other pork products with the utmost of confidence.”
BC Egg Marketing Board executive director Al Sakalauskas ─
“Modernizing B.C.’s animal health legislation will result in greater preparedness throughout the agriculture sector, and supports the significant expense many egg and poultry producers have incurred while implementing disease prevention measures on their farms.”
To view a copy of the bill, visit: http://www.leg.bc.ca/40th2nd/4-4-40-2.htm
Information on Ministry of Agriculture’s Animal Health Centre:
Ministry of Agriculture