11 April 1997


THE Sheep Scab Order 1997 is due to be enforced on July 1. It has been designed to protect sheep from the serious welfare implications associated with the increasing spread of scab in the UK.

Proposals for changes to the order give local authorities power to clear common or open land so scab outbreaks can be treated in these areas where flocks graze together.

Producers transporting scab-infested sheep, other than direct to slaughter, will find themselves breaking the law – as will those not treating infested sheep with an approved scab treatment.

Other main proposals are outlined in the table. The new measures are the direct result of the workings of the Sheep Scab Action Group, which sent its recommendations to MAFF at the end of 1995.

Local authorities which find any part of common land grazed by sheep visibly affected with scab may publish a notice requiring producers move them by a specified date.

Once the deadline has passed, producers can only move sheep back onto that land within a specified period from the date of the notice if sheep have been treated against sheep scab with an approved product.

The local authority requires written proof. The producer must, therefore, state the number of sheep treated, date or dates of treatment and the product used. Only then can the authority authorise movement, again in writing.

But it will only issue authorisation when satisfied sheep have been treated against scab in the correct manner. And if the proposed movement is within 16 days of the date specified in the notice it will only be accepted if sheep have been treated in a way which ensures they will not be affected by mites remaining on the land.

While a notice is in force, the local authority will be within its rights to seize and detain any sheep found within the area. Only if a producer can establish right of ownership within seven days – and pay incurred expenses – may he repossess the sheep. Otherwise the authority may slaughter the sheep. Once the cost of seizing, detaining and slaughtering has been accounted for, the balance goes to the producer who can establish ownership.

This power is intended for use when commoners or graziers associations are unable to resolve the problem of containing a sheep scab outbreak by consensus. Some of the producers involved will have treated for the scab already. A gathering enforced by a local authority notice will therefore result in extra cost incurred by gathering, treating and veterinary supervision. These will be covered by the compliance cost assessment. They are not expected to exceed costs borne by a producer carrying out good management practice.n

Rebecca Austin


&#8226 Offence to move an animal affected with sheep scab – unless for slaughter or treatment.

&#8226 More flexible for local authorities to clear open or common grazings and to allow the return of treated sheep at the earliest opportunity.

&#8226 Enforcement provisions strengthened to ensure sheep owners comply with treatment notices.

&#8226 Breach of the Sheep Scab Order 1997 is an offence under section 73 of the Animal Health Act 1981. Penalty currently £5000.

&#8226 Draft compliance cost assessment prepared which aims to identify likely cost impact of proposed legislation on business.

&#8226 Owners failing to deal with visible cases of scab infestation when served with a treatment notice are required to have treatment of affected sheep supervised by a veterinary surgeon.